An 18 year old from North Carolina talks about her first time voting on Super Tuesday and realizing that her polling station is next to a police station and the impact that this may have on Latinx voter turnout.
My name is Selene Santiago. I am 18 years old. I live in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and I voted for the first time on Super Tuesday during our state primaries. It was also my first experience with subtle but clear voter suppression.
For you to have context you should know that the majority of the people in my town are White. Latinx people come from the rural towns all around the city. Over the last year, North Carolina has been the target of immigration raid after immigration raid. Just last march, some of our local Sheriffs ended collaboration with ICE, which led ICE to detain over 200 people in our communities, just to show their power. And most police officers help out immigration enforcement. In the rural areas, where most Latinx immigrants live, police officers often stand on the side of the road and set up check-points where those who don’t have a driver's license get trapped, and if they are immigrants, they get turned over to ICE for deportation.
So when I went to vote that Tuesday and stood in line, this Latino man who was volunteering approached me and said that he was worried because I was one of the first Latinos he had seen get in line to vote. And he had been there since 6 in the morning and it was already 1pm. I looked down the line and maybe there were 1-2 people who looked Latinx. And then as I kept going past the line to our polling place I realized that just down the street is the police department.
My first thought was that my undocumented parents would not have come near there not even to drop me off because they would be afraid that an encounter with the police might lead to deportation. I wondered how many people that had happened to. Or how many were citizens and could vote but preferred not to be questioned or take the risk. And in the last few weeks, there has been so much exposure of police violence to Black communities. So really, why would they put it near a police station?
I know I have a lot to learn about the long history that my state has with voter suppression, particularly of Black residents in North Carolina. But this to me seemed like a clear example of how the location of a polling place can lead to voter suppression. But despite this, I believe that our communities need to participate and need to organize. I’m organizing people to vote because our community is tired of being afraid and I want my sister to grow up without fear and without shame. Right now my mother could be taken by ICE at any moment, climate change is threatening our future, all while Trump just fuels racist hate. We have a chance to change our state, and get Trump out for good.