During the 2016 election I was going to school full-time at Northern Arizona University as well as working full-time as an on-campus bus driver. I wanted to vote on November 8, but was unable to because of work. The day before the election I texted my boss to tell him I wanted to vote but because of my class schedule I wasn’t sure I’d have enough time before my shift started. I asked if it would be OK for me to come in 20 or 30 minutes late so I would have time at the poll, and he essentially said that we needed to stick to our schedule and couldn’t afford to have any lapses in our driving schedule. I was upset but figured I’d try to just be quick about it and rush to the polls between class and work.
Arizona law only requires employers provide time off for voting if the employee does not have three hours before or after their shift during the time in which polls are open. I had those three hours, but because I had class I couldn't spend them in line at the polling place.
On election day after my last class I went to the polling station on campus and was met with an absurdly long line. On the one hand that made me happy, because, you know, people voting. On the other hand I had a sinking feeling that I would never make it through the line in time to vote before I had to go to work. I stood in line for as long as I could but then, about ten minutes before my shift started, I had to leave and book it to work.
If I had planned better I could have done early voting, yes. But I didn’t think I’d be unable to get time off from work if I needed to, and I’ve always thought of voting like: show up, line up, and vote. That was part of my experience and what I looked forward to. I didn’t think about it ahead of time.
The experience was especially defeating because voting has always been a big thing in my family. My grandma and my grandpa both volunteer at the polling stations every election. My grandma even has a specific outfit that she wears and everything. It’s this jumpsuit, it’s blue and it has stars all over it. It’s super patriotic. When we feel strongly about something we go out and vote. If there was a specific proposition on a ballot that we really cared for we were that family who put signs out on their yard. I just was raised to use my voice and to vote—no matter what direction that may be in. My family never even pushed an agenda to vote a certain way, it’s just that you should vote. So not being able to sucked.
In the future I think it would be a good idea to change our voting system so that we vote on Saturday or Sunday, or at least have elections last two weekdays so that employers have an opportunity to send out half their employees one day and half another day. Maybe it just helps employers and employees; just people who can’t make it a certain day because, who knows, maybe an emergency comes up and they can’t get to their polling place.
The whole experience in 2016 has really energized me for November 6. I’ve moved a couple of times in the last year so I’ve double and triple checked that all of my information is correct. I have the official information pamphlet that explains all the propositions on the ballot, and I feel very strongly about a few things on it this year. I work for a public transit agency and we actually have three propositions that we need the city and county to approve.
A lot of people think that in the big picture their one vote doesn’t matter, but it does. For all I know there are so many people who were in my position and the vote could’ve gone a totally different way if a lot of us had been able to cast a ballot.
The night of the election, as the votes were being counted and I was beginning to see what was going to happen I just had this horrible, guilty feeling. My roommate and I were sitting there and I just literally started crying because I was like, "Wow, I didn’t even get to play a part in this. This is going a totally different direction than I needed it to." I felt a lot of guilt afterward.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.