The Right to Vote – Thankvember Fifth

 

 

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The Right to Vote – Thankvember Fifth

 

Although I intended to write this on Election Day, I am getting to it at nearly 12:30 am the day after the election.

 

I have exercised my right to vote, in the company of my husband and our children. I was happy to vote for a President whom I have largely approved of, and whose calm, passionate, compassionate leadership has brought about many positive changes in our nation.

 

There have been other elections where I did not feel that there was an alternative I could truly believe in, what voting became a matter of choosing the least objectionable in a field of candidates I felt were not ideally or at all suited for the position they were running for.

 

I did not vote at all in the hotly and famously contested 2000 Presidential election. I had not accounted for the fact that, although we were living in Montana, we would be in New York, visiting family and friends, at election time. While I know that my vote was far from a deciding factor, it felt – wasteful – to not cast it, and add my voice to the national discussion that we call an election.

 

This year, though, I was fortunate enough to be able to cast my vote for an array of candidates that I support and believe in.

 

And I know that my vote helped to express the concerns and wishes of the populace.

 

I think to the generations of women who were denied the vote – and more often denied, in more patriarchal times, even the understanding that could allow them to cast a wise vote. I think of a time when black men’s votes were counted as only three-fifths as worthy as a white man’s.

 

And I see that, right now, in my house, live two children, ages 8 and 11, who are excluded from making their voices heard for no other reason than that they are children. No election board is interested in knowing how much they might know about the candidates or the issues, or even if they have their own concerns.

 

And I think of the many means attempted, in this election year, in an effort to curtail certain sectors of the population from exercising their right to vote.

 

There were new regulations requiring identification that many of our most impoverished citizens do not possess, and do not have the required fees for obtaining.

 

There was the reduction of hours in locations where early voting was intended to help those who have difficulty arriving at the polls on election day. There was a clearly voiced effort, by one party, to sue for the revocation of these hours, which were said to only benefit the “urban voting machine” – with no acknowledgment at all of the fact that this “urban voting machine” is made up of individuals, with the right to vote. The fact that they were not likely, as a group, to be voting for that party’s candidate does not negate their right to cast their vote for the candidate of their choice.

 

It warms my soul, and buoys my faith in fair play, that these efforts were resisted. At many polling places, explanations were made to explain what people truly were required to present, and what could not be demanded.

 

Many people waited for hours, in the cold, sometimes in clothing not warm enough for the weather, so that they could cast their votes and use their voices. They would not be dissuaded by limited hours.

 

On election night, in Virginia and Florida, polling was extended by hours due to the long lines of people still waiting to vote.

 

Clearly, a vote is an important commodity. All the campaigning, all the money spent, all the debating and media coverage – all of it, in the end, comes down to each vote cast by a citizen.

 

My vote is my little piece of the conversation, my best way of making my voice heard on matters of importance to me.

 

And, even in years when I do not feel enthused about any candidate, I will vote, and have my say in the conversation that directs the course of our nation.

 

Jeremiah, 7, Annalise, 4, and Jim outside our polling place, 2008.

 

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