'VoteRiders Added Years to My Life' Says Florida Voter
Written by: Erin Carden
Carolina fled an abusive relationship that left her with broken ribs, a punctured left lung and destroyed belongings — including her state identification.
After a six-day stay at a hospital in Florida, Carolina left with a doctor’s prescription for pain medication, but no pharmacy could dispense the pills unless she presented her ID. She was also unable to receive other medication for her health, including an inhaler. Without proper treatment, Carolina’s health quickly deteriorated, leaving her with a collapsed right lung in addition to a punctured left lung. In addition to being newly homeless, there were other problems. Soon after, her mother was in the hospital, dying, but Carolina was not allowed to visit her without an ID.
“I’m used to everything being, ‘no, you can’t,’” Carolina explained. “Even if I wanted to go out myself and get an ID, I don’t have the money. I don’t have income because you need an ID to work. I can’t do anything.”
Life has been anything but easy for Carolina, who is now 60 years old. For 12 years, Carolina lived without a job, a permanent address, or medication. Originally from Cuba, she was eligible for U.S. citizenship several years ago, but could not formally accept her new status without identification. When the COVID-19 vaccine was released in 2021, Carolina was told that she could not be vaccinated against the deadly virus without proper ID.
“You know how depressing that was?” Carolina asked. “I have two compromised lungs and now I have to go out and face COVID because they won’t vaccinate me. Millions of people are dying and they’re telling me I can’t get the vaccine, but everyone else can? All because I don’t have an ID?”
Fortunately, her harrowing circumstances began to change course when she stumbled across VoteRiders’ website in September 2022 while researching voter registration online. Through VoteRiders’ website, Carolina’s suspicions were confirmed. She would not be able to vote in the Florida midterms without identification. But she also learned something else — VoteRiders could help.
“Most people in my position are not positive about anything,” Carolina explained. “I didn’t have hope in my mind after years of not voting, so my mind is blown that I could reach out to VoteRiders and hear them say, ‘we have a way for you to do this.’ It’s life-changing. There’s nothing more empowering than the right to vote, and VoteRiders gave me all the tools and information to make it happen.”
After Carolina called VoteRiders, Florida Voter ID Coalition Coordinator Jazlyn Gallego and a VoteRiders volunteer, Jillian, were assigned to her case.
“Right away, they’re on it,” said Carolina. ”They worked late, they texted me all the time and said things like, ‘make sure you do this’ and ‘we can help you do that.’ They’re so knowledgeable and thorough and tireless. They’re absolutely incredible people. I’m the kind of person who quits very easily, but they didn’t give me a way to quit.”
VoteRiders’ Florida team scheduled an appointment for Carolina to apply for a new ID, arranged and paid for round-trip transportation to her ID-issuing office, and requested and paid for the underlying documents she needed to secure her ID.
With a Florida state ID, Carolina can now receive her U.S. citizenship certificate. She can now schedule doctor appointments and receive life-saving medication.
“This is the first time that I can really look ahead,” said Carolina. “I’ve never had basic healthcare. At age 60, I can now think about preventative medicine. VoteRiders added years to my life.”
A new ID also means that Carolina is now officially a U.S. citizen and she can cast her vote in the next election.
“Now I really do feel part of this nation,” Carolina explained. “ I feel like I’m an American, and I’m very proud of that.”
After many years of hardship, life is looking brighter for Carolina. She now lives with her partner in Miami Beach, Florida, where she enjoys listening to a variety of live music and taking long walks on the beach.
“Jillian and Jazlyn are key figures in my life,” Carolina concluded. “I wasn’t able to do anything and now it’s like, ‘yes you can.’ Now I’m going to have a piece of ID with my face and my address. VoteRiders put me back on the map. Thank you, for everything.”