Student Veteran Miggie Garcia Interns with Election Protection Project

Student Veteran Miggie Garcia Interns with Election Protection Project

Student Veteran Miggie Garcia Interns with Election Protection Project

With allegations of voter fraud, “rigged elections” and voter intimidation pockmarking the 2016 Presidential election, the nonpartisan organization Common Cause Election Protection has been gearing up for the challenge of ensuring that all those eligible are able to exercise their right to vote. For Miguelina “Miggie” Garcia, a junior at John Jay and an intern at Common Cause, it’s an exciting time.

Garcia has been working to ensure that voters are registered properly and will make it to the polls, despite any obstacles they might face. “Long lines, excessive police presence, intimidation at the polls, lack of accessibility for disabled people, not having a form in your primary language, or even the fact that the polling place might not open on time, all of these factors affect people’s right to vote,” she said. Garcia is also working to confront obstacles unique to the state of New York, such as a lack of early voting and the fact that it remains one of the only states without an electronic voting system. She recalls a press conference she attended where Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner told the audience: “We think we’re a progressive state, but we still do so many things backwards.”

Garcia is a U.S. Army veteran majoring in Public Administration and Global History at John Jay, and says her interest in voting rights is inspired by her grandmother. “She’s 83 years old, barely speaks English, she can’t even leave her house, but she still wants to exercise her right to vote,” she said, “I want other people who are eligible to have the same sense of pride that my grandma has.”

Garcia grew up in Washington Heights, where she lived with six siblings and other members of her extended family who were originally from the Dominican Republic. “My house was like a refugee house,” she said. “Whenever a relative or friend of the family would migrate from the Caribbean, they would stay with us and we would help them get on their feet and transition to an American lifestyle.” Garcia also remembers the nonprofit organizations that her family relied on at various points.

“In my family, we have this word: reciprocity,” she said. “Once you’ve been successful and enjoyed the fruits of your labor, it’s your duty to give back and help lift up others.”

These experiences are what shaped Garcia’s desire to serve her country. Garcia joined the Army after high school and served for six years, including a deployment to Kuwait during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2014. After hearing from other veterans about John Jay’s positive reputation in supporting that community, Garcia enrolled and quickly became an active student on campus, co-founding the Black Student Union, interning with the Prisoner Reentry Institute, and participating in the Veteran’s Association. She is also a JFEW Scholar.

But these days, Garcia’s interests are focused on the election and Common Cause, where she’s working hard to recruit new volunteers and train them as poll monitors. “When people ask questions or have issues, we’ll be able to get them the help they need. Any problems that arise we try to fix on the spot,” she said. Common Cause also works to eliminate misinformation and prevent the intimidation of vulnerable minorities, such as blacks, Latinos and Muslims.

“I really want to see more students involved in the election process,” Garcia added. “It’s so much bigger than just Republican and Democrat, and I encourage students to focus on the local election as well. One vote really does matter.”