This afternoon I spent some time with old friends and new at Sisters Deli, writing letters to folks in Wisconsin encouraging them to vote. It would be a joy if one person feels compelled to vote because of it, but it feels good doing it nonetheless.
As a daughter of an immigrant who never voted, it took me a while to understand the importance. So much of what we do stems from our early experiences, and not once did we ever talk about voting (or sex or drugs or anything, really) as a family. So it should be no surprise that it took me a while to get into the habit of voting. In the early days, there was always some other priority over voting, especially when we had to go to the polls to do it.
The thing is, I don’t look down on myself or my family members for having a not so stellar voting record. What matters is what we do now. And I never get punitive with people who don’t vote. Sure, I may roll my eyes and get frustrated with people who don’t exercise the privilege of choosing our elected officials or how our government runs, but making people feel bad for something they’re not doing is probably the least effective way to get them to do it.
I vote because it’s just a normal part of being an engaged citizen of this country. I’m of the opinion that (if we have ability) we show up and choose who runs our country or we don’t get to complain. Sometimes my side wins and sometimes it loses, but I’ll never have a pang of discomfort or guilt if someone I dislike gets elected. My one vote counted for the thing, person, initiative that I believed in. To me, casting a vote is my pledge of allegiance to America (and Super Tuesday is my Superbowl).
Both the State of Washington and Oregon make it easy to vote – it’s an exclusively mail-in voting election. You can vote from the comfort of your own home, over a cup of coffee and your voter’s pamphlet, and it feels pretty safe and efficient. Some people go so far as to make a party of it and vote with their friends, which I think is a pretty great thing too. It’s all better than having to take the day off work to stand in line at the polls and perhaps be subject to those terrible voting machines (which are vulnerable to being hacked).
Less than 50% of the states have an option to vote by mail and if I’m going to get angry about something related to voting – this is it. We need to have a unified system of voting in this country that makes it easy for people to cast a vote safely and efficiently. Instead, what we have is a mess.
One in four workers in America does not have paid vacation time. This means that in over 50% of the states, individuals will either have to choose between an income or taking time off to vote. The other alternative is to rush to the polls after work to stand in long lines. I know a lot of people who have to rush to pick their kids up from daycare, so this really isn’t a viable option. All this feels ridiculous when there is another system out there that works.
At the end of the day, I vote because it feels good to be a part of something you believe in. I can still remember watching Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama getting on that walkway for the first time as the first family. I cried because I was so happy and know I wasn’t alone in that joy. Everyone I knew was elated and the world felt full of possibility. I had a very different feeling in 2016, but I also had a community of other voters to process the shock and confusion. I never felt alone in my grief.
I know that not everyone agrees with my political leanings. You believe in what you believe in and I realize there are those out there who felt like President Obama taking office was the worst day in the history of this democracy. I totally get that feeling. My hope is, that wherever you are on that political spectrum, you take the time to vote for something you believe in. So really, what matters to me is not who you voted for, but that you voted.
I hope you join me this year as a registered voter. It would delight me to no end.
Have a lovely weekend friend. See you tomorrow.
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TLDR: Be Cool
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