I am a 34-year-old freshman at Salt Lake Community College, and I have never voted.
When Americans turn 18, they are granted certain rights, including the right to vote. When I turned 18, I joined the U.S. Army.
Never having voted does not mean I have never faced the reality that politics affect people. My first taste of “politics” was of the military brand.
I joined the Army as an enlisted soldier, which, in layman’s terms, I was a “working man.” There were always people in higher positions telling us what to do. Officers in the Army were always the face of all work that was done by enlisted soldiers, whether good or bad. A famous saying if anyone accidentally called an enlisted soldier “sir” was, “Don’t call me sir, I work for a living.” This power dynamic from an enlisted soldier to an officer is very evident from day one.
This dynamic never changes.
This was what I thought politics was, and I was not a fan. If I wanted to change the way things were done, I lacked the voice to make it happen. This left me annoyed and bitter. There were parts of military service I loved; the politics of it all wasn’t one of them.
After my second tour to Iraq, I re-joined a world where I was told that my voice—through my vote—matters. But talk of politics always brought back my time in the military, and I remained skeptical that I had any real ability to change my world. So, I stayed stubborn, stuck in my ways.
For years after my service, my life took a path so isolating that politics was the last thing on my mind. I suffered many of the ailments you might associate with being deployed in combat—anxiety, depression, PTSD. My difficulties devolved into drug use until I made the decision to get clean in 2019.
Now I have re-joined the world yet again, but with a much different outlook. I know that I have the ability to change my own life, and for the first time, I think maybe I can also be a part of broader change. But here’s the problem: I started from a place of almost complete ignorance about the political process.
I’ve always been anxious about political conversations, not wanting to sound ignorant or make people dislike me for my views. With time, though, I’ve started to exercise these new muscles. By expanding the news I read and surrounding myself with trusted friends, I have discovered and tested my opinions. I have found confidence in what I believe, leaving me less worried about what other people think.
I am proud to say that, for the first time in my life, I am registered to vote.
I still have much to learn. For instance, I was so excited to receive my voter registration card in the mail, only to be confused when I found out about Utah’s primaries system and the concept of a closed primary—limited to members of a single political party.
Now that I am finally stepping out of the political shadows, I know I will continue to encounter this sort of new information. I welcome the challenge of coming to better understand our political system, and I look forward to using my vote to let my voice be heard. I know my voice matters, and so does yours.
What you need to know
The Utah midterm election takes place on Nov. 8, 2022.
The deadline to register both online and by mail is Oct. 28. The deadline to register in-person is Nov. 8, which means you can register when you show up to vote.
To register online and for more information about other items such as mail ballots, visit Utah’s official voter page.