As November 3rd approaches, it’s become more and more apparent that Texas will play a large role in the 2020 election. Since early voting began two weeks ago, Texans have been showing up at the polls in droves, despite the many challenges of holding a safe and efficient election during a pandemic. With election season in full swing, we are highlighting seven Texans that are optimistic about this year’s voter turnout and hopeful about the future this election will foster.
Gayle Leonard | Volunteer Deputy Registrar
Travis County. A retired graphic designer and stay-at-home mom, Gayle has been a Volunteer Deputy Registrar (VDR) since 2017. For her, the 2016 election was a real wake-up call, and she’s feeling optimistic about the 2020 election. “While I was doing voter registration this year, I encountered so much enthusiasm about voting. Three years ago, I was still trying to convince some people why it was important to vote. I don’t think anyone feels apathetic anymore—they want their voices to be heard.”
“Ninety-seven percent of Travis County is now registered to vote! I think that shows that people are optimistic when they feel like their vote matters. It means we still believe in democracy. 2020 has been such an awful year—we all need to hang on to some optimism for the future.”
Antonette Zanele Danai Masando & Sabbina Masando | First-Time Voters
Tarrant County. Antonette was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, but moved to Fort Worth with her family in 2000 when she was five years old. Twenty years later, she is now voting for the very first time, along with her mother Sabbina, as both women recently gained their U.S. citizenship in the summer of 2019. Sabbina came to the U.S. before the rest of her family in 1999 on a student visa. She currently works as a nurse, braving the frontlines of the pandemic to help COVID-19 patients.
“It’s been exciting for me to vote this year because for so long I wasn’t able to. The 2016 election was very critical and important to me, but I wasn’t able to vote. My solution to that was, ‘Well, if I can’t vote then I’m going to encourage those around me to vote, and I’m going to share the information that I know.’”
“I’ve been optimistic about this election because, for me, it means finally getting the opportunity to make my voice heard and participate in democracy. Putting a stamp on what I think is right in a place that I call my home. This has been the hardest year of my life, but the silver lining is that I get to make decisions that have an impact on our future.”
“My mother was probably the most excited to vote out of all of us! A lot of what I know and my world view comes from her and who she is. She cares deeply about people and their wellness, she cares about women’s rights, and she’s very informed and involved politically.”
Stephanie Lasala | Volunteer Deputy Registrar
Travis County. Stephanie works for Collective Campaigns, which is a one-of-a-kind, worker-owned and -operated political and non-profit campaign firm. She also worked with VoteUp, a campaign that provided convenient pop-up opportunities to register to vote in order to register as much of Travis County as possible.
“In a world filled with uncontrollable chaos, voting is a tangible way that we feel like we are able to make real change. With tensions as high as they are in this current election, I think optimism keeps us involved and aware of the fault in our systems, as well as motivated to change it.”
Theresa Tucker | Poll Worker
Tarrant County. This is Theresa’s first time working the polls—she chose to do so because she was concerned there wouldn’t be enough poll workers this year, and didn’t want people to be discouraged from voting due to long lines. She runs the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 at the polls, which is a point of concern for her family, but Theresa is taking every precaution and still feels driven to do the job.
“I felt it was my civic duty to work the polls. And I like what I’m seeing there—we’re having a lot of first-time voters, many of which have just gained their citizenship, which is very encouraging. I have been very optimistic about the number of people I’ve seen coming to vote—we never have a lull. There’s just no break for the poll workers. So I’m very optimistic! I feel encouraged that it’s going to go the way I want it to go.”
Sue Bilich | Long-Time Voter
Travis County. Sue has been active in the political scene—engaging in her civic duty to vote, among other things—since she turned 21 in 1956. Sue is fairly active in other areas of her life as well: She’s an actress, singer, and water aerobics teacher. She narrates books for the blind, works with the city teaching adults and children with disabilities, and dedicates time to two local synagogues. Sue is also currently working on a series of stories told from the perspective of her dog, Josie, which she hopes to publish soon on YouTube.
“I’ve been called ‘little lady’ and that doesn’t offend me, but…we can carry our own suitcases and our own banners. Keep comin’ out to vote, ladies!”
“If you stop being optimistic, then how can you achieve anything? You have to look on the bright side of life. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic!”
Stephanie Land | Volunteer Deputy Registrar
Travis County. When she’s not freelancing as an editor and writer, Stephanie stays busy as a mother of two kids, two dogs, and a polydactyl cat. Also a self-proclaimed bookwork, baker, and sourdough bread-maker, it’s incredible that she also dedicates time to helping others register to vote. “After the 2016 election, someone I respect gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. He said, ‘The best antidote to despair is to get busy doing the next good thing.’”
“I realized that choosing to become a VDR, and getting recertified every two years, really is an inherently optimistic act. That’s true for any volunteer work we do right now, whether it’s phone banking, writing postcards, or lit dropping. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t believe our efforts could have a positive impact. I suppose every election is driven by hope, but maybe this one more than most. 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, and devastating to many, so I’ve been grateful that the last few months gave me the opportunity to see that optimism lives on.”
Photos & Words by Marshall Tidrick