Every four years, political parties in every state in the United States, as well as in the District of Columbia, select voters lists to officially vote for the next President and Vice President of the Electoral College. These roles are usually assigned to those with deep political ties.
However, this year the Washington DC Democratic Party has turned away from this trend and selected a group that is less representative of the pillars of the party and instead reflects the community as a whole. These voters will meet on December 14, when the Electoral College is preparing to officially vote across the country.
The Electoral College has a total of 538 voters. Presidential and vice presidential candidates need 270 votes in the Electoral College to win the election. Democrat Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes, including all three from Washington, DC, with Republican President Donald Trump’s 232 votes cast.
Two of DC’s voters are frontline workers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the third has spent years working on DC’s fight for a state.
Meedie Bardonille is a registered nurse and chair of the District of Columbia Board of Nursing. Jacqueline Echavarria is from Washington, a veteran and cashier at a Safeway grocery store. Barbara Helmick is the Director of Programs at DC Vote, a non-profit organization committed to providing DC residents with full representation through the state.
To celebrate 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, the three voters in the district are women.
“They were very intentional in making sure they had three representatives to represent the district,” said Bardonille.
Bardonille said the possibility of being a voter for the district is of great importance. As a Howard University graduate and a proud member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, she shares a bond with Black First Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, herself a Howard graduate.
“I represent those who have been undervalued and underrepresented. I proudly stand as an American citizen who will vote for the first African American woman and graduate of my alma mater, Howard University, to the highest office in our country.
“This is confirmation that we have cracked not only the glass ceiling, but the concrete walls built to prevent us from entering, and have finally taken our place at the political table,” added Bardonille.
As Bardonille prepares to vote on December 14, she has said she will honor the legacy of the women who made this possible.
“It means that I am participating in a system that was not designed for me. It’s a unique and complex system, with a history filled with compromise and inequity, but today I am here … unplanned, unworked, indifferent as an African American woman, nurse, mother of a black son making the dreams of those who paved the way before me come true. “
Bardonille hopes his vote can fill the void for those who feel disenfranchised or neglected by the political system.
“By casting the official vote for our next president and vice president, I find myself in ‘good trouble’ as this march for justice, fairness and representation continues,” Bardonille said, using a famous phrase. of the late American representative and civil rights activist John Lewis.
Bardonille does not take its responsibility to represent the approximately 700,000 inhabitants of the district lightly.
“The process of being chosen as a voter was humiliating and received with a great sense of duty and honor.
Jacqueline Echavarria is a longtime resident of Washington, DC. Mother, grandmother and veteran, Echavarria is also a frontline responder in the ongoing pandemic. She is a cashier at a Safeway grocery store and an active member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, a union representing workers in various industries.
Echavarria has dedicated a large part of her life to volunteering, and she thinks it helped her land the role of voter.
“Volunteering is probably the process in which I became an electoral delegate because the [Democratic National Committee] contacted Local 400 and my union representative. Lynette Floyd recommended me because I volunteered with the Obama administration at the Correspondence Office.
Echavarria said the opportunity to represent her hometown has special meaning, especially after experiencing what it’s like to be away from home.
“I am originally from Washington, and being in the military and being married to an army man, I traveled to several places. And believe me, there is no place like home. And being able to represent Washington, DC as a native of Washington is like a bonus, ”Echavarria said.
After losing her mother this year, Echavarria wants to honor her with the vote she will vote next week.
“My mom not only voted, but she also volunteered to work at the polls when she could. So voting on the 14th would be like his final vote. “
As Echavarria contemplates this historic moment in her life, she has an important message for average citizens who don’t think they can make a difference in their own community:
“I think everyone can do something. Volunteering is, as I said, probably what brought me here, and I love volunteering. So I think if everyone just gave a little of their time, because I don’t have any money, but I just have a little time. And I do volunteer work, and it’s so rewarding. So everyone can do something.
Barbara Helmick has resided in Washington, DC for over 40 years and has become one of the strongest voices in the state of DC. Additionally, Helmick will be DC’s first lesbian voter.
“While I am delighted to represent women and represent the states movement, [I] also recognize the importance of all of our communities being recognized, ”Helmick said.
Constitutionally, the District of Columbia was not created as a state, but as the “seat of government of the United States” under the control of Congress. DC residents pay federal taxes but have no electoral representation in Congress, which supporters of the “state” note when they press for DC to become a full state.
Until 1964, the District of Columbia was not part of the Electoral College. A constitutional amendment assigned three voters to DC, equal to the number of members of Congress it would have if it were a state.
While Helmick is honored to have been chosen as a voter, she recognizes that there is a lot of important work to be done.
“I will say, it’s almost a little ironic. It’s a bit bittersweet. Because it’s the only right to vote we have in Washington. We do not have the right to vote in Congress. We don’t have self-advocacy. “
Helmick said she had mixed emotions about her choice.
“I am delighted, I am honored. I will be a loyal voter. But it is with a note of anger at the general injustice of the plight of those of us who live and raise families, work, and vote – the little voting we have to do here in Washington.