Grabbing That First Chance to Vote
BRAND: In this white-hot election every vote could indeed count, even that of first-time voter, eighteen-year-old Autumn Campbell. She's from Jeremiah, Kentucky, and she has a list of issues she wants the candidates to address.
Ms. AUTUMN CAMPBELL (First-time Voter): This is my first time voting and I'll be doing it as a swing voter, whatever that means. People like me in rural parts of the country are supposed to make a big difference, so maybe politicians running for congress will pay more attention to eastern Kentucky this year. They should join me in some of our local cafés, lunch counters and dairy bars where you're greeted by all the grannies, mamaws(ph), and nanas(ph) who work behind the counter.
I know a grandma who's in her eighties who arrives at work at 6:00 a.m. to prepare home-cooked food for the day and then flips hamburgers and works the grill until closing. Then she goes home to cook dinner for her family. She's been doing this for decades for nothing more than minimum wage - only making $5.15 an hour.
We tried to do something about this locally. Community members and county officials tried to get the minimum wage raised by more than $2 an hour. We lost. That has me thinking about my vote. Politics has always been a part of my life in my small self-sufficient community. Elections are personal, and for as long as I can remember, one of my relatives has always been running for office. So until I registered to vote, I always thought local officials took care of everything. I never thought once about who represented me in Congress or in state government.
It seems to me, Letcher County, like many rural places, was invisible to the higher elected officials. The only time this part of the country gets any attention is when we have devastating mine disasters. This is more than politics to me. My dad has rock lung. That's like having cement in your lungs, and it comes from being a coal miner. Whoever is responsible for enforcing these mine and safety laws doesn't realize the impact they have on family life. We need the representatives in Washington to keep our miners safe. Our part-time local officials can't solve our larger problems.
Now that I'm a swing voter I hope congress will pay more attention to our problems here. Our grandparents shouldn't be worrying about how to pay their grocery bills or how their funerals are going to be paid for. But what will happen after the swing vote changes? I want Congress and my representatives to pay attention now and always, because we have real problems in Letcher County and they need fixing.
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BRAND: Autumn Campbell is a senior at Letcher County High School in Kentucky. Her essay comes to us from Appalachian Media Institute and Youth Radio.