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‘As an immigrant, I want to have a say’ - Jamaicans in the US more engaged in election than ever before

Published:Monday | November 2, 2020 | 12:05 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
The line for early voting at a polling place in Oklahoma County on Friday, wraps around Edmond Church of Christ in Edmond, Oklahoma. People in this section of the line still have to wrap around the entire building to gain entrance to vote. Voters at the fr
The line for early voting at a polling place in Oklahoma County on Friday, wraps around Edmond Church of Christ in Edmond, Oklahoma. People in this section of the line still have to wrap around the entire building to gain entrance to vote. Voters at the front of the line were reporting five-hour waits to vote.

Antonio Buddington is a newly naturalised United States citizen who will cast his first-ever vote in a presidential election on November 3.

The 34-year old Jamaica native explained that he is motivated to participate in this election cycle because he is not happy with the direction of the country.

“I want to have a direct influence on issues such as immigration and fiscal policy. I am trying to make a difference. As an immigrant, immigration is very dear to me. I want to have a say,” he said.

Buddington is one of several first-time voters with whom The Gleaner spoke to gauge what is motivating them to vote for the first time in the United States (US) presidential and congressional elections.

Also casting first-time votes are 21-year old Nicolette Cunningham, 21-year old Talia Thompson and 20-year old Anya McNabb.

MAIN FOCUS

Buddington, whose main focus this election is immigration, pointed to the obstacles placed in the path of immigrants and noted that these roadblocks should not exist.

“My hope is that after this election, an effort will be made to do comprehensive immigration reform so that immigrants will benefit and be able to assimilate into the country,” he said.

It is also his hope that the new government will look to implement fiscal policies that will impact the country in a meaningful way.

As part of a financial non-profit organisation, Buddington is concerned with wealth creation to better benefit those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Climate change is also one of his other concerns that his motivating him to vote.

Buddington said that Kamala Harris being on the ticket was not a motivating force in his decision to vote.

“I welcome her being on the presidential ticket, but I was going to vote anyway. So while she is an added incentive, she is not the motivating factor to vote,” he said.

Cunningham said she has already sent in her mail-in ballot in her home state of Florida.

She said that she was motivated to vote because she is unhappy with how the current president is handling the affairs of the country.

“It does not sit right with me, so I want to be a part of the change,” she said.

Cunningham, who is of Jamaican descent, wants to see healthcare reform. She also wants to see an increase in the minimum wage and how the climate situation is being handled.

“Some people in their early 20s still rely on their parents for healthcare, and the pandemic has exposed the need to reform the system”, she said.

She added that while it is great having an African American woman as a vice-presidential candidate, it was not the motivating factor in her decision to vote.

VOTING IS IMPORTANT

“I would have voted anyway. It is important to vote and I want to be a part of the change,” she said.

Cunningham also does not think that the country is going in the right direction, pointing to what she calls a lot of division in the country.

“I am hopeful that we can get the country back on track,” she said.

Thompson, who is also of Jamaican descent, voted by mail-in ballot for the first time in a presidential election, although she voted in the last mid-term elections.

Like the others, she does not like the direction the country is going in and wants to be a part of the change.

She also said that while it is great having Senator Kamala Harris as the vice-presidential candidate, it was not the motivating factor for her decision to vote.

Thompson acknowledge the historic nature of Senator Harris’ nomination and what it means for black women, but said that she would have voted anyway.

“I want to be engaged in the process and it is important to vote,” she said.

Like Cunningham, Thompson has been encouraging her peers to vote and to get involved in the process.

“I am not telling them for whom to vote, just that it is important to be a part of the process, she said.

Thompson added that some of her peers are reluctant, but others are getting involved.

According to her, there is a lot going on and she is looking forward to some changes taking place and for the country to go back to being what it can be.