I turned 18 soon after the 2000 presidential election, and you have no idea how disappointed I was. It was such a big and important year, and as a high schooler, I wasn’t quite able to participate. My parents had drilled into me how important my civic duty was, and I had followed behind them as a child, sometimes looking on as a child within the voting booth itself. So registering to vote was a thrilling experience.
My first time voting was for a congressional election. My cousin and I were both attending school a couple hours from home and as college students, and neither of us had applied for an absentee ballot. Whoops. Luckily, as students we had more free time than other voting adults, and decided to road trip home for the afternoon/evening. He picked me up around 2pm, we arrived at our respective polling places before 5pm, voted, had dinner with the extended family, and then drove back to school, arriving close to midnight. It was a fun first experience.
In 2008, I voted in the presidential election, and with my sister flew to Ireland that evening for vacation. I fretted in the airport bar as the returns started to come in. We boarded the flight, and a few hours in, the captain came over the loudspeaker to announce that Barack Obama had been elected. I jostled my sister awake to tell her, but she was nonplussed. “Great” she mumbled, and went back to sleep. People in Ireland were so excited to talk to Americans after the election. We were congratulated the moment we opened our mouths. It was bizarre.
In 2014, I voted absentee for the congressional election. I was once again on vacation, and this time had a bizarre feeling that anyone else in my position would just have ignored the election and not worried so much. Low voter turnout backed up that idea.
None of this is supposed to impress you, merely to give you my bona fides as a real voting enthusiast. Today is the Presidential Primary in many states across our country. I’ll be voting in Virginia, where the primary is open, and you may vote in ONE primary of your choosing. I haven’t yet decided which one I’ll be voting in (I’m not affiliated with a party). Both primaries are strongly contested (duh – have you been paying attention?) but it’s hard to choose. Do I vote in the one where there’s a candidate that I STRONGLY dislike, and try to help make sure that he’s not on the ballot? Or do I vote in the other, where my feelings are less clear, but I am leaning one way that could make a difference? It’s hard to say.
What I do know is that this evening after work, I’ll trudge up to the little polling place about 3 blocks from my home, I will hand over an ID and sit down on a child-size chair with dividers between me and other voters. I will cast a vote, and I will wear my sticker proudly. I may even go out and run errands afterwards with the specific purpose of showing off my sticker. But no matter your party affiliation, you too should vote. Whether you’ve done so already, are doing so later, or will have to wait until November. It’s so important. Because our government IS us. We are the ones who put them there. If you don’t vote, you are saying “I do not want any voice in how things are run.” So keep that in mind the next time you’re angry at the way things are.
Note: Are you registered to vote? If not, you can still register for the general presidential election in November. Find out more about registration here.