Polly Baca has been active in Democratic politics since her college days at Colorado State University. Since then she has worked on presidential campaigns, has served in presidential administrations and was Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee . She is a labor and civil rights leader in our state and was elected to the Colorado House and the Colorado Senate. As an advocate she believes when you improve the lives of Latinos in Colorado you improve the lives of all Coloradans.
You’ve been a pioneer many times in your life. What have you learned from being the first Latina in so many positions?
I’ve learned that the challenge of being the first is to encourage others to surpass what you have done. Sharing your experience and opening the door is a responsibility that we have to assure continued progress.
We have an election coming up. What message do you have about voting and its importance at this time?
As citizens of the oldest democracy in the world, we have an obligation to assure the continuance of this democracy during this time of great challenges. At this critical time in history and to protect our democracy, each of us has the responsibility to become informed and vote for the candidates we believe would be the best for our community and nation.
What did you learn from your parents about voting? What have you taught your children?
Although neither of my parents had a high school degree, they both stressed the importance of getting a college education and exercising our right to vote. My father read constantly and enjoyed commenting on current political issues. He stressed that it was our responsibility to vote for those candidates who would help working people. I have tried to instill in my children that same sense of responsibility to vote and participate in our democracy.
Can you talk about the first time you voted?
When I was 18 years old, I was frustrated because the law would not allow me to vote until I was 21 years old. That caused me to get involved in lobbying Congress to lower the voting age to 18. It was one of the first political issues I got involved with as a college student. When I graduated from college in 1962, I was 21 years old which was the first time I was eligible to vote. I attended my precinct caucus and got elected as a delegate to the Democratic County Assembly and met the candidates who were running for office on both the Primary and General election ballots. It was exciting to finally have the right to vote and I have voted in every election since that first election 60 years ago.
Once people vote, how can they continue to use their voice?
Voting is the most important step. In addition, each person should become informed about the issues by reading newspapers and magazines, watching TV news, searching the internet or social media, and attending issue debates or speeches. Also, find out who the officials are that you can vote for by googling “My Elected Officials,” then contact your elected officials and let them know what you think. Finally, volunteer to help elected officials you like or run for office against someone you don’t like.
If you have not yet registered to vote there is still time before the mid-term elections. Ballots go out on October 17 and you have until November 8 to make your vote count. Everything you need to know about how and where to vote is here.