U.S. Voting Restrictions Should be Reevaluated

“No,” I quickly responded as I smiled back.

“Would you like to register?” she said. “It takes only about several minutes. I can help you,“ she insisted. 

“Sorry, I’m late to class,” I half-lied.

  She probably thought that I was lazy, apathetic or ignorant. But that’s the farthest from the truth. I wish I could have told her that I have wanted to vote ever since I turned 18. And, I wish I could have told her the reason I cannot vote — I am undocumented.

Ever since I moved to this country from South Korea at the age of 11, I grew up just like many other American students. I attended local public schools, learned English, joined sports teams and was involved in many different student organizations.

I eventually made my way to UC Berkeley after transferring from Laney College. In college, I studied political science and became increasingly involved in student government — first as the student president at Laney and later as a student senator at Cal.

Even after I graduate from the top public university with a degree in political science, I cannot participate in the voting process. I am just one person, but there are approximately 2.1 million DREAM Act eligible students who have earned or are pursuing a college degree in the U.S., but cannot exercise the right to vote.

Some may argue that we do not deserve to vote because we are undocumented.  This may sound logically reasonable, but it goes far beyond obtaining a U.S. citizenship. Whether documented or undocumented, there were times when African Americans, women and other underrepresented communities did not have the right to vote.

Even today, many people are having difficulty voting because of restricted laws to purposely prevent them from having the right to vote. For example, Tennessee voter ID law restricts people from participating in the voting process because significant proportions of underrepresented communities do not possess government-issued photo identification. Clearly our current voting process is flawed. Thus, policy makers and elected officials should encourage as many people in this country to participate in the voting process as they can, instead of punishing them by creating discriminatory laws against underrepresented communities. 

The November presidential election is just around the corner. Though I am unable to vote, I encourage others to vote in this critical election.  Voting is a basic right, a civic duty and a responsibility as citizens in this country — we should not take it for granted.  

You should vote because there are millions of undocumented immigrants, like me, who want to vote, but are unable to do so because of their immigration status.

You should vote because people fought and died for the right to vote in this country.  

Your vote matters, your vote counts, your vote can change a person’s life.

— Ju Hong
UC Berkeley student
4th year, Political Science