Hometown: Atlantic City, NJ
Occupation: Entrepreneur/Casino Worker
What is your first time voting story (when is/was it)?
Shameeka Harvey, 31, of Atlantic City, recalls the first time that she registered to vote in December of 2006: it was immediately following her birthday.
“All I wanted to do for my birthday was update my license from a permit and register to vote,” she said.
Unlike her friends, who were preoccupied with typical teenage activities, Harvey was more concerned with the importance of exercising her right to vote. As the then President of the NAACP Atlantic City Youth & College Chapter, she could not wait to vote. She knew that her “singular vote could act as an instrument for change in [her] community.”
Harvey eagerly voted for the first time in a school board election. She has participated in every election cycle ever since.
What does voting mean to you?
“It gives you a voice,” Harvey said. “It makes you a part of the process. It keeps you engaged...It’s important to vote because these decisions that are being made are being made on the basis of not just our current situation but also our future and the next generation to come.”
When speaking on the people who choose not to vote, Harvey clasped her hands, her face bewildered.
“If you don’t vote at all, it’s still a vote in the wrong direction,” she said, shaking her head in disapproval.
The Atlantic City native could not help but think of her own community’s involvement in voting in this instance.
“To be completely honest, that has been the ongoing issue plaguing our own community in Atlantic City in our local elections for years,” she said, concern coloring her words.
She urged her peers to see that, in order for adequate change to improve the city, residents should vote in all local elections.
“Atlantic City, beyond the lights, is a beautiful sight...a lot of the issues Atlantic City has now can be overcome, if you vote,” she said.
Share the tradition of voting in your family?
Harvey recalled, as a little girl, going to the polls with her parents. They would let her press the voting buttons to cast their votes.
Growing up, she watched her father’s active involvement in community organizing; he would help residents register to vote. She remembered joining him at the Renaissance Plaza in Atlantic City to pass out leaflets, encouraging community members walking by to vote.
“I was always intrigued with how he captivated people as he talked and they wanted to know more,” she said. She remembered how, during those days, several people didn’t realize that they could vote due to their records.
“Many African American men, at that time, thought they could not vote because they had been incarcerated, even if they were not charged with felonies. They didn’t know!” she said.
This lack of accessible knowledge only made her more determined to use her platform to uplift the members of her community to vote.
Harvey now makes sure to educate her children on the importance of voting.
“When it’s time to vote, I take them into the booth with me and let them see the voting process and the importance of it,” she said.
For this upcoming election, due to the restrictions placed upon voters by COVID-19, Harvey plans to make the trip to the post-office to mail in her ballot.
“You should vote because your life depends on it,” Harvey said. “You should vote because your children’s children's lives depend on it.”
— Interviewed by Malikah Stafford