On Election Day, Alhambra Source Reporter Corps members took to the streets, exploring why people voted, why they did not, and what issues motivate them. In one city, they found residents that ranged from enthusiastic first-time immigrant voters, community college students concerned about their futures, a single mother who never got around to registering, nuns preoccupied with the ethical future of the nation, and more. Read on for their stories — and to hear their voices.
Ineligible to vote, reporting on voting
By Alfred Dicocio
Unable to vote in the past two elections because of my immigration status, I was excited to somehow be a part of the democratic process this year. Arriving at the polling place at 7 a.m., I saw that plenty of cars were already parked in front of the All Souls Parish community hall. I was encouraged to see that some people brought their families with them, and to overhear their kids asking questions about who the candidates are or why they are voting in this particular place.
Inside the polling place, I sensed a palpable energy among the volunteers. An Asian woman who could barely speak English struggled to share with me her enthusiasm about the election because she was voting for the first time.
Ian Riley, 31, told me that he wasn’t as concerned with the presidential elections because California is a predominantly blue state. He focused mainly on education propositions 30 and 38, expressing how important it is to continually support our schools. In terms of the City Council elections, he chose to abstain from voting, citing a lack of information on the candidates.
Oscar Gonzalez, 55, on the other hand, was convinced that Governor Mitt Romney can get the country out of the economic crisis and exuded a more sincere presence during the campaign. But he was skeptical of supporting props 30 and 38 because of the lack of clarity as to who exactly benefits from it. He was also a supporter of completing the 710 Freeway project.
These are the voters that I used to know about only through statistics — until now. As a reporter and a resident of the United States, I have long awaited hearing from the real people that may either be the beneficiaries or innocent victims of laws that govern our land. To see them exercise that right and question its motives makes me more appreciative of our democracy and determined to make sure that everyone's voice is heard.
Baklava and coffee after voting in Alhambra, along with different attitudes toward faith and voting
By Javier Cabral
I knew that Wahib’s Middle East Restaurant was the best place to get hummus and falafel in the San Gabriel Valley, but never knew that it also functioned as an official polling place for the election. Standing outside the restaurant, I was hit by how different people in the same city feel about politics and how faith influences them.
One of the first voters to talk with me was Hoyt Sze, who was accompanied by his wife as he walked out of Wahib’s with complimentary baklava and coffee in hand. He told me that he was a Democrat and volunteered for three days in favor of President Barack Obama. “I just feel committed about certain issues and candidates,” Sze said.
At least nine nuns arrived to vote, some in cars, others by foot. They refused to talk to me, until a couple that came dressed in a different uniform, who had recently moved to Alhambra from Idaho and North California and were the youngest of the bunch, stopped for a voting visit. They introduced themselves as Melissa Ponce, 23, and Noemy Bañuelos, 29, and explained that they were postulants from the nearby Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. Their religious beliefs influenced their vote. Ponce was proud to voice her choice for candidate Romney: “He is on the right track – for the most part – on his morals, although he’s not a Catholic of course.” Bañuelos had similar views, “Ryan is a practicing Catholic, he also incorporates his faith into politics.”
Business as usual? Or, at 18, becoming the first in your family to vote
By Irma Uc
Finding business owners on Alhambra’s Main Street to speak with was more challenging than I expected. I came in confident about what I had to do: approach local business owners and ask their opinions on Proposition 30, which would fund education by imposing a 10.3 percent tax rate on taxable income over $250,000. Easier said than done. A lot of the businesses are Asian owned and there was an immediate language barrier that I could not cross. Others told me that they did not have the legal right to vote, but wanted to keep that off record. Still others were not available, because they were not in their stores and only had employees who could not speak with me.
At the Comic Cellar I found Ron, a white, middle-aged man, and I thought because of what I had read about election turnout he might be more inclined to vote, and more inclined to talk. My instincts were right. When asked why he decided to vote against Prop 30 he answered, “the money is not guaranteed for the schools; it can go to pay off debt.”
After that it was hours until anyone else agreed to let me interview them. I learned that some people are frightened to express their opinion and rather not speak at all. Others didn't have an opinion on the matter and just saw Election Day as a normal day.
At City Hall, where there were polling booths, I thought it would be easier. It wasn’t until I discovered a man who was a good customer at the gas station where I work. I had always assumed he lived in South Pasadena, but was wrong. Bertin Ngnibogha spoke eloquently about how he had the right to vote and wanted his voice heard.
The last voter I spoke with was my 18-year-old sister. She was a first-time voter, and she felt under pressure. In my family she is the only one able to vote and she had reluctantly agreed because she thought, like her brother, that “everything is rigged.” It was refreshing for me to hear from her that she was now going to vote, and to do so based on what she thought was right and not what she was told to do.
To vote or not to vote? A 23-year-old single mom of two says she’s “iffy” about the process; struggling retiree believes his vote counts
By Monica Luhar
In Alhambra, I discovered a sharp divide between individuals who were apathetic about voting and those who had never missed a single election to date.
After boarding the ACT bus on Fremont Avenue, I met 23-year-old Gabriela Vasquez, a single mother of two studying to become a medical assistant. She explained that she did not register to vote, mainly because she felt “iffy about voting” and that casting would not make a difference.
“I just feel politics is a little bit corrupted,” Vasquez said. “I don’t think they really go by what the people have to say.”
Then on Main Street I met Victor Hernandez, 74, who had retired many years ago. But due to poor economic conditions and the inability to pay for the high cost of rent, he was forced to pick up a part-time job to support himself.
Hernandez expressed his frustration over the fact that politicians had “forgotten seniors” and how he was struggling to make $7,000 a year.
“I make almost $600 a month. I pay $925 for my small apartment,” Hernandez said, while trying to hold back tears.
Hernandez said that despite his disappointment with politicians and their lack of “compassion” for seniors, he felt more obliged than ever to make his vote count.
East Los Angeles College students get excited about education
By Jane Fernandez
Although my fellow students at East Los Angeles College had different opinions on for whom they wanted to vote and the reasons why, the desire to obtain a better education was a key concern for all of them. I identified with that since funding decisions would impact my education as well.
When I asked them which propositions most interested them, they pointed out the ones that had to do with money for education. Many students told me they were concerned about their academic future if the propositions failed to pass. Some students carried around flyers that explained the pros and cons.
Student Jessica Lopez, 19, said that her mother is a teacher and she has received pink slips a couple of times; she hopes that voting for Prop 30 will change that. “Our school system is pretty messed up so I think voting for 30 will pretty much help us out with our school education,” Lopez said.
I was surprised at how many college students actually were getting involved in this year’s election. Many students walked around the school with their “I Voted” stickers. “I feel like I can make a difference. I didn’t think it was that important but now I see that one vote can make a difference,” said Angie Brindis, a first-year communications major and first-time voter. Like most college students, Brindis was confused trying to understand which props to vote for.
“I think they should be a lot more clear and more specific. I feel like most of them have some sort of loopholes so I feel like they should really honestly inform the people because the people need to know what we are voting for," Brindis said. “They’ll make a really big difference whether I vote yes or no on them, especially if it will impact our younger brother sisters or cousins.”