Being reminded that the death penalty is on the ballot in California woke Pernille up from her election fatigue and made her reflect on the responsibility of being an informed voter. As an immigrant who became an American Citizen 9 years ago, she knows that you can never take voting for granted. Voting is a privilege, a responsibility and the foundation for creating a good life for us all.

“On my flight to Philadelphia from LA this morning – less than two weeks from election I am with strong emotions reliving the day I was sworn in as an American Citizen in the fall of 2007. After 25 years as an immigrant I wanted to be able to make my voice matter and be part of history by casting my vote on Election Day in 2008.

Being sworn in as an American Citizen was for me and the other 130 fellow citizens from over 80 different countries that fall day in the city of Brotherly Love – not only an honor and a privilege – but also humbling.

An American Citizenship comes with both constitutional freedom and individual responsibility. We all knew that and would never forget that.

A few weeks ago I was visiting the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. Here I was reminded of people like Jimmie Lee Jackson and Viola Liuzzo, who both sacrificed their lives on that “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, which paved the way for passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Martin Luther King, JR said: “There was never a moment in American History more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger at the side of its embattled Negroes”.

On Saturday at a fundraising for Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles I met an old black man walking up to hundreds of people with a pledge to all of us: “Register to vote here, Please!”. I know he never takes his right to vote for granted, forget his responsibility as a citizen or the privilege to be an American.

At the same event I walked by a booth “ Yes to 62” remembering something about the Death Penalty being on the California Ballot. I met an older Latino male, who had been on death row for 17 years, was just found innocent and released. That got my attention. Now I know, that a “Yes to Prop 62” means changing all First Degree Manslaughters in California to life in prison without parole. In other words: abolishing the Death Penalty.  Meeting the advocacy staff at “Yes to 62” woke me up from my election fatigue and abdication of my responsibility of being an informed voter. Needless to say I have been studying the 222 pages California Voter’s guide the past few days and have made a decision on each of the Props.

As I am about to land in historic Philadelphia – I want to remind all of us as American Citizens of our right and responsibility to vote. We can never take this for granted. You might think your vote doesn’t matter, the system is “rigged”, you don’t like any of the candidates or politicians can’t be trusted – I can’t argue with that.

What I can say is, by casting your vote you respect your country and honor the people before you, who risked their lives to protect this very fundamental human and constitutional right. Get out and vote, please!