Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I miss voting. Sure, I still vote, but my state only has mail-in ballots now. The closest I can come to the voting experience is to drop off my ballot at one of the election-day-only drop locations.

Why do I miss voting in person? I miss the sense of civic membership that came from standing in line with people from my neighborhood (even if I didn't know them), greeting the poll workers, seeing my name in the voter rolls, stepping into the booth, fitting the ballot over the pegs to align it, pushing my chads through as I made my choices, putting my ballot into the "secret ballot envelope" and finally putting it into the ballot box. I love that! I feel so responsible, so adult when I vote in person. Voting by mail feels more like paying bills by mail -- personal drudgery rather than civic participation.

On the other hand, I remember all too well my first experience voting. I was 19 and away at college. It was a Presidential election year, so many of us in the dorms registered locally (absentee ballots were less common in those long ago days). We voted at another dorm near ours. I found one of my closest friends over at the polling place when I got there, and we happened to get booths at the same time.

For some reason, it hadn't occurred to us that we would be able to vote for anyone besides the Presidential candidates, and maybe for US Senator. Holy moly, there were all sorts of races on that ballot! Since we were young, naive, and mostly experienced in tests where the powers-that-be recommended choosing some answer instead of leaving a blank, we felt we had to choose a candidate for every race. We're talking about school board, city council, everything. We lived in the dorms, we read the college paper, not the town paper. We knew nothing (although we did know we knew nothing). So we started consulting with each other, even as both of us are in the voting booths. "So, who do you want to vote for on city council seat #1?" "Uh, I'm not sure. How about voting for Party X this time? We haven't voted for many of those." "Umm, look, there's a woman running for the next position. Let's vote for her." "OK." We went through a lot of races that way, and I'm sure the precinct workers wanted to kill us and/or void our ballots. I'm not sure they shouldn't have, but at least we were participating. It was important to us to use our votes for that first national election where we could.

Today, even if it's done at home, I vote. And I send a mental toast to my dear friend in honor of that long ago vote. Thanks, Broc-T for sharing my first election!

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