On Aug. 25 Deerpark Town Supervisor Gary Spears filed with the Orange County Board of Elections a challenge to the voting registrations of 30 registered voters who lived at 140 Gelley Hill Road in Cuddebackville, the address of Fei Tian College. In comments to the press, Spears expressed concern over whether these new Chinese registrants were eligible to vote and whether that was their real residence.
All Americans Have the Right to Vote
I have been a resident and student in the town of Deerpark for over three years now. This is the first year that I decided to register to vote, so when I recently saw articles in the Times Herald-Record and the Mid-Hudson News discrediting my status as a U.S. citizen and implying that one may not be American because of one’s ethnicity, I was deeply offended and felt personally attacked. I have lived in the Tri-state Area for the majority of my life; I grew up in the American school system and my primary language is English. Who gives anyone the right to question my authenticity as a U.S. citizen based on my name?
I grew up learning and believing that America is a land of freedom and equality and that the right to vote is guaranteed to all citizens. I am shocked that by merely exercising this right, I have become the victim of discrimination in a time when acceptance of all peoples, regardless of race or national origin, is customary. The U.S. is known as the melting pot of the world, a place where people of all different ethnicities can live in harmony. I am extremely disappointed by the comments of Mr. Gary Spears, the incumbent supervisor of the town of Deerpark, and his blatant disregard for one of the defining characteristics of our nation.
Furthermore, the articles repeatedly emphasize that 140 Galley Hill Road is a “single-family, three-bedroom home” when in fact, this address houses qualified students who attend an accredited and bilingual arts school. Regardless of the fact that this mistake was corrected, regardless of whether the misinformation was intentional, it paints us in a negative light and creates barriers within our community.
As an elected government official, when encountering new voters of different ethnicities, isn’t it natural to realize the diversity of the community? Rather than perceiving these voters as potential enemies, questioning their validity and even singling them out for media attack, shouldn’t a public official encourage them to participate in their local government? I am very disheartened by Mr. Spears’s response to our simple choice to exercise our constitutional rights and saddened by his unfair insinuations. As a U.S. citizen who has been discriminated against by my town supervisor, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for an open apology—for myself, for my school, and for the entire community.
Chinese Americans Are Americans Too
I am a Chinese American citizen and student enrolled in Fei Tian College, pursuing a degree in fine arts. When I first heard of Supervisor Gary Spears challenging the legitimacy of “30 new voters” registered to 140 Galley Hill Road (the address of the college), I felt greatly insulted and offended.
As a law-abiding American citizen who chose to exercise my constitutional right to vote, I feel that I have become one of Supervisor Spears’ political targets and am accused of something that I am not.
Many of my fellow classmates and friends who enrolled to vote were born and raised in the United States. Like me, they may be of Chinese or Asian descent, but it does not make any of them less of a true American.
I never thought that the historic struggles for suffrage would happen to me in this modern-day American town. Why are Chinese American citizens living and studying in Deerpark considered “troubling” by Supervisor Spears?
Is this gentleman, who is currently re-running for office, challenging my friends and me as Americans, or judging us differently because of our skin and hair color?
If that is the case, then that is what I find most troubling.