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Politics and Policy

A Nevada Family Navigates Voting For The First Time

Image shows a freestanding “I voted” sign placed on the sidewalk.
Jay Phagan
Flickr Creative Commons
Kenia Ramírez and her family are first-time voters who completed their mail ballots and delivered them to a dropbox in Reno, Nevada. "

Lee en español.

Researching and completing one’s ballot can be a complex process during any election, but it’s a totally new experience for first-time voters, especially those with language barriers. Reporter Natalie Van Hoozer spoke with Kenia Ramírez, a new voter who helped her whole family cast ballots for the first time this year.

Natalie Van Hoozer: Kenia, tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.

Kenia Ramírez: I am a first-generation student. My parents didn't go to middle school. We're from Mexico, and they didn't have the educational opportunity, so for me, [education] was something I knew was a must. Education has been highly valued in my family. 

This was the first time voting for my brother, my parents, [and me]. We live here in the Reno area. My dad works in construction, my mom works at a warehouse, and my brother is a student, so voting for us was a unique process, I would say. 

Van Hoozer: This election is the first time anyone in your immediate family is voting, what was your motivation for getting to the polls this year?

Ramírez: For my brother, he just turned 18, this was the first time he was eligible. For my dad, my mom and me, this was the first time we were eligible [because] you have to be a U.S. citizen. That wasn't necessarily our case before. This was our first time to voice our opinion. For me, [it was also a chance] to voice my opinion for those who are not able to voice their opinions. 

Coming from an immigrant background, I do refer to those that are living in the shadows in our country, that are undocumented or “DACAmented” [under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] that aren't able to express their own voices in the voting process. I think we know that [voting] is our civic duty, and we were going to make sure that we took part in it. 

Van Hoozer: What was the voter registration process like for you and your family?

Ramírez: Once I figured [out] that I could do it through our Washoe County [Registrar of Voters] and I found the link for registering, it was actually super easy. I think, for all of us, it  maybe took a total of ten minutes. I helped my parents fill out their registration. We all did it on our computer at home. It was pretty straightforward, which, for us, was like, “Oh, thank goodness.”

Van Hoozer: Your family chose to vote by mail. How did you go about figuring out how to fill out the ballot?

Ramírez: My parents always look up to me for problem solving. They know English, they can speak it, they can read it, it's just that English [with legal jargon], like the ballot, even reading it as an English speaker, I was so confused. It was something completely new to me. It was just a matter of thoroughly walking through each step, rereading things three, four times. I also sought out some guidance from other family members or close friends who have voted before. 

My brother and I did seek out resources through social media, through online platforms that were through [Washoe] County. [Also] videos of things, so that we could understand [the process] in a way that we could relay back to our parents so we could make an informed decision. 

Van Hoozer: Did you go over topics on the ballot with your parents in Spanish or English?

Ramírez: Even though the ballots in our state are in essence bilingual, there's just always a layer of jargon that sometimes can make it really confusing, in whatever language you speak. It was a sharing process, so when I was looking at [information], I would show them and explain it to them, but it would always be in Spanish. 

Van Hoozer: You worked with your brother to find a dropbox. What did it feel like when you submitted your ballot? 

Ramírez: I love commemorating special moments in my life and those of my family, so I did have to take a picture for us. It was just this, "Ah hah!" moment for us, like "We did it!"

This story was produced in partnership with Noticiero Móvil

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