Why Vote?

Ann Umemoto is the President of the Board of Directors at Westchester Children’s Association. Ann specializes in creative problem solving for public health solutions, and exhibits a full understanding of the social determinants of health that parallel WCA’s advocacy efforts for children and families. Originally from California, Ann reflects on her ancestry as she explores the meaning of voting. and the personal fulfillment she receives from voting. WCA continues to encourage voter registration and education, especially for youth development.

My father wanted a better world for his children.  He was an optimist and believed that if he became involved, if he spoke up and voted, he could help make this better world he wanted for us.

But let’s look at a little bit of American history.  All four of my grandparents — my father’s parents and my mother’s parents came to the US from Japan in the early part of the 1900s.  Like other immigrants before them and after them, they came to improve their lives from the hardships they faced in their country of birth. Their lives in their new country weren’t easy, but through hard work, they were able to raise their families.  Japanese immigrants continued to move to the US until the restrictive Immigration Law of 1924 effectively barred most Asians from coming to the US.

But long before my grandparents came to California, laws prevented them from fully participating in the new homeland. The First Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1790, the first law to create standards by which a person not born in the US could become a naturalized US citizen.  A person had to be a resident for two years, established proof of good character, and most importantly be a “free white person.”  In practice only white, male property owners could naturalize and become citizens.  Women, nonwhite people, and indentured servants could not.

This law prevented all Asian immigrants from becoming US citizens.  When my grandparents came to the US, they were prohibited from becoming citizens and so couldn’t vote.  Due to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, my parents born in the United States could not be denied citizenship.

These laws restricting citizenship gradually were repealed.  In 1943 the Magnuson Act repealed Chinese exclusion laws and allowed Chinese to become naturalized citizens. But finally not until 1952 with the Immigration and Nationality Act (also known as the McCarran Walter Act) was abolished as a criterion for naturalized citizenship.  By then, both of my mother’s parents had died.

So why do I vote?  Not only because my father would want me to and in memory of my grandparents.  Voting is a right of citizenship that I shouldn’t take for granted.  In fact none of us should take voting for granted.  It is one of the most basic ways we can participate in how our lives are governed.


Westchester County Early Voting Centers (You may vote anywhere on this list, regardless of where you live):

  • Croton Municipal Building, 1 Van Wyck Street, Croton on Hudson, NY 10520
  • Eastchester Public Library, 11 Oakridge Place, Eastchester, NY 10709
  • Greenburgh Town Hall, 177 Hillside Avenue, White Plains, NY 10607
  • Hastings-on-Hudson Public Library, 7 Maple Avenue, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
  • St. Gregory The Great Church, 215 Halstead Avenue, Harrison, NY 10528
  • Mamaroneck Town Center, 740 W. Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, NY 10543
  • Mt. Kisco Public Library, 100 E. Main Street, Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
  • Mt. Pleasant Community Center, 125 Lozza Drive, Valhalla, NY 10595
  • Joseph G. Caputo Community Center, 95 Broadway, Ossining, NY 10562
  • Pound Ridge Town House, 179 Westchester Avenue, Pound Ridge, NY 10576
  • Rye Brook Firehouse, 940 King Street, Rye Brook, NY 10573
  • Somers Town House, 335 Route 202, Somers, NY 10589
  • Jefferson Village Annex, 3500 Hill Boulevard, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
  • Yorktown Cultural Center, 1974 Commerce Street, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
  • Doles Center, 250 S. 6th Avenue, Mt. Vernon, NY 10550
  • Mt. Vernon City Hall, 1 Roosevelt Square, Mt. Vernon, NY 10550
  • New Rochelle City Hall Annex – 90 Beaufort Place, 90 Beaufort Place, New Rochelle, NY 10801
  • New Rochelle United Methodist Church, 1200 North Avenue, New Rochelle, NY 10804
  • Peekskill Lincoln Depot Museum, 10 S. Water Street, Peekskill, NY 10566
  • Peekskill Neighborhood Center, 4 Nelson Avenue, Peekskill, NY 10566
  • Rye City- Resurrection- Early Childhood Education Center, 88 Milton Road, Rye, NY 10580
  • Westchester County Board of Elections, 25 Quarropas Street, White Plains, NY 10601
  • Grinton I. Will Library, 1500 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10710
  • Nodine Hill Community Center, 140 Fillmore Street, Yonkers, NY 10701
  • Riverfront Library, One Larkin Center, Yonkers, NY 10701


For information on obtaining an early mail ballot or voting by absentee ballot, see https://citizenparticipation.westchestergov.com/voting/request-an-election-ballot.