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Voices Behind The Vote: Reproductive Justice Advocate On Voting As Harm-Reduction

Nash Jones
Reina Davis is a professional intern at the University of New Mexico Women's Resource Center

Half of the millennial and Generation Z voters under 30 who plan to cast their ballots for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden aren’t very enthusiastic about the candidate, according to a survey by the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. Reina Davis is a 23-year-old Albuquerque voter who, while not particularly excited about her options for president, sees voting as harm-reduction, and as one facet of fighting for reproductive justice, one of her priority issues.


"Hi, my name is Reina Davis, and we're sitting here in the UNM Women's Resource Center, a place definitely very near and dear to my heart. So, my freshman year at UNM, I was really lucky to be introduced to this place and start working here, and I've actually grown to become professional staff. We're in our conference room where we usually hold a bunch of workshops and advisement and things like that. It's been really tough, especially during this pandemic, you know. Now we have our services still, of course, but we don't have our regulars coming in saying 'hello.’ So, it's been really hard to kind of be in the office without the normal buzz.

I'm classified as a professional intern, where I focus on self-care, harm-reduction, and community outreach, community engagement. Writing has always been a really big part of who I am, too. I have a blog now, since quarantine. So, I started doing feminist analysis of horror films for fun.

I identify as Chicana, and then I also identify as mixed race. My family is so important to me. I did have an ill parent a couple times in my life, and so taking on a caretaker role really young has been really eye opening. My identities and my values I hold so dear to me, so I really study the representatives and the candidates that are supposed to represent me and my voice because I understand you're not just one thing – everything is super intersectional.

So, for me, a big thing is reproductive justice – not just abortion or healthcare access – but the right to parent, also the prison industrial complex. Like, tackling all these things that pertain to families, autonomy and choice. That's been a really big thing for me, especially within the work that I do. We try and empower our students and I think a really big part of empowerment is autonomy, and stability and safety. So, that's really been informing kind of where I'm looking politically.

You really have to look for candidates that really do talk about reproductive justice. I still think that's kind of an issue as well. We really aren't, still, able to talk about what reproductive rights and justice is. Although, the body is a political space, period. Right? Like, internally or how we access space. It's a little absent from the forefront of our conversations, because people are scared to talk about them. And that sucks. Like, I think these are conversations that we have to have to progress and to advocate for our communities effectively.

I've definitely looked to [organizations] that I admire, and they've had a lot of lists of resources to find, like, 'who's your representative?' 'What district are you in?' and that's not something I did, really. I mean, I did close to an election, but I don't do consistently. It's like, hey, like, 'why am I not actually engaging with these people more than a month before?’

When I turned 18, I was so excited to vote. I always joke that I voted for like every pothole in the city. I wasn't super stoked to vote in 2016. It felt like lesser of two evils. And it kind of, it feels like that now, as well. But, I've really focused on voting as a harm-reduction strategy. It's, 'which administration do I want to fight up against?' Right? As opposed to, 'which administration is going to save us all?' That's not how that works. And care has always been holistic. You can't only do one thing. It's 'yes, vote, and also engaged in local politics, also do direct action, community care, and teach, and etc, etc, etc.'

So, I'm all registered. I'm good. I'm good to go. I'm going to vote in-person. I don't know, I think that there was a lot of really negative things going on with the mailing system and things like that, that I was just like, 'okay, no.' But I also think that it's a legitimate and safe way to cast your ballot. I just personally want to mark the bubble, hear the ‘ding.’

Voting is really important and there's a lot of folks that can't, which is a whole conversation of itself that we need to have. So yeah, go vote. I love voting. My name's Reina Davis and I love voting."

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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