This morning, I voted. It was actually the first time I have not voted by an absentee ballot. As a result, it was a much better experience–which is to say, it was an experience. Our polling station opened at 7 am. We were just inside the school’s double-doors by 7:05. There were 7 electronic polling stations (1 clearly handicapped accessible) and, after checking in a getting our electronic voter card, we went through the lines fairly quickly. We had walked home before the clock ticked 8 am. My daughter, too young to vote, participated by standing outside with a sign while we waited in line and voted.
I spent most of yesterday studying, and studying. In my state, Maryland, we had 7 questions to vote on, and in my county, Anne Arundel County, we also had a large number of questions (up to Question N, I believe, but I am not interested enough to count it out). As a historian, I am always, always, cognizant of the limitations of my sources. For some of the questions under review I had changed my mind in the last 24 hours after doing more research, but I still worry that I may not have had all the information I needed to make the best decision.
For a moment, though, I did not care about the outcome of the elections. For a blissful moment–after long hours of frustration, yesterday, sifting through candidate platforms and rival analyses of the questions on the ballot–I was thrilling in what I was doing. I was voting, participating in the democratic-republic as a citizen of my county, state and country. My whole household was participating as each was able. I know there will be charges of foul-play with the votes and ballots after the election; I know that Maryland is gerrymandered and the votes for candidates are fairly predictable; I know I will be disappointed with some of the results; and is all going to come later, but for that moment, that moment which was so powerful I am still a little high on it, I was proud and grateful to cast my ballot.
I’m luckier than many this election day and I know that, too. I was raised by parents who believed in an active citizenry and raised me to fully understand the importance of my vote, the importance of lobbying my representative government at the state and national level, and the importance of being aware of political current events. I also vote at a polling station that is not easily overwhelmed by volume–people will undoubtedly have to wait in chilly lines running into the school parking lot, but no one will wait hours on election day as happens in some polling stations (though, the early voting polling stations did have long waits this year). And, I also work at home and do not need to jump through any special hoops to accommodate my work schedule to voting hours. This makes me fortunate and I am keenly aware of that, but the knowledge that people will overcome some of these very obstacles that I do not face inspires me even as I hope we gradually work to eliminate such difficulties and even though (or, especially?) I know I undoubtedly do not agree with all of the voters who are overcoming these challenges.
I have never had the same feeling in casting my absentee ballot–except for that very first time when I was in college, perhaps–as I had, today, waiting in line with my neighbors and those coordinating the process at the polling station. It is good to wait in line with people whom you do not know, alongside those you do, and who may not agree with you when they cast their ballot in peace. There is a certain solidarity of having participated in the great (if at times flawed) civic process that exists in our country. This solidarity, this participation that gives me my euphoria also makes me reflect gratefully on the many pioneers who opened up the vote to those who were for so long disenfranchised. It makes me grateful for the efforts made by so many participating and active citizens who helped improve the civic process and those who will continue to do so. It was easy to look around at just the folks who attended my polling station this morning while I was there and who voted, today, only because we improved upon the original conceptions that were written into the founding of our nation.
So, for right now, from that moment that hasn’t quite worn off yet, I am still happy. Later, I will certainly go through a much wider array of emotions, but for right now I am inclined to grin like a fool if I don’t catch myself. I voted.
I would love to hear others’ experiences and emotions, too! Please, share in the comments, below.