Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yay, Participatory Democracy!


Alas, my polling station did not have stickers, thus I am forced to make due with this digital version.

At any rate, today I voted! Hooray! And I hope all of you able to do so did the same.

This is an exciting election for me, not only because for the first time since I've been able to vote, it looks like my candidate of choice will actually win, but also because this is the first election where I've actually been able to vote in person.

When I turned 18 it was not a presidential election year, and I could not justify missing two days of college in November to trek back to PA and vote for the state senate.

In the 2000 Bush v. Gore election, I was living abroad and voted by Absentee, then sat in the kitchen of my grotty student flat with my other American flatmate, staring at election coverage on British television, chain smoking and bemoaning the fact that we were 6 hours ahead and would not be able to get the results until the next morning... or, as it turns out, until several days later.

In the 2004 Bush v. Kerry election, I was living in NYC but still registered in PA, voting once again by absentee.

Thus, it was with genuine excitement that I got dressed and prepared to head up the street to my polling station (only about 6 blocks away) and cast my vote in what is possibly the most important election of my lifetime so far.

I made my way to the polling station, which was somewhat chaotic having something like 10 precincts voting in the same room, and only one booth for each, but the lines weren't all that long and, amazingly, nobody seemed to mind.

There was a palpable sense of excitement and even joy in the air, humming with the clicking and clanking of the ancient voting booths. As I signed in and took my place in line, a girl emerged from the voting booth and did a little dance, giving a whoop of joy. A few minutes later, her boyfriend followed suit. The people in line made idle, friendly chit chat with each other as we moved slowly forward. Another woman came tumbling out of the booth and came up to her friend in line.

"Those words were so small! I couldn't see anything! I was just like, show me where Obama at, I don't care about them other names, just show me Obama!"

Much as I may have wanted to, I could hardly fault her for her disinterest in the other offices holding elections. I had no idea who these men and women running for Brooklyn Court Justices were either.

As I took my place at the head of the line, I watched as the gentleman in front of me had serious trouble with the booth--the giant red lever appeared to be stuck. I stood, frozen, thinking: Well wouldn't it just figure if the freaking booth broke right before I get to vote!. Fortunately, the volunteers set things to rights and I was able to enter and cast my vote without any difficulty, smiling as the red lever slid smoothly back to neutral.

As I left the polling place, I got the distinct feeling that this election has pulled voters out of the woodwork who would not normally be bothered, and that excites me--that people in this country are finally taking an interest in how it is being run. Sure, it took an expensive, seemingly-neverending war and a serious financial meltdown to wake them up, but now that they are awake, perhaps we can finally do something.

It's time to remind the rest of the world that, while we have been behaving like the bully on the playground for the last decade or so, there is still some good left in this nation. A lot of good. We just need to start acting like it.

As I was walking back to my apartment, a guy headed in the opposite direction stopped me in the middle of an intersection.

"Did you just come from voting?"

"Yes, I did."

"How is it over there?"

"It's not bad, not bad at all."

I wondered, how could he tell? What made him ask me? Perhaps it was because I was the only person on the street who appeared gainfully employed, but I like to think it was the smile on my face.


amy said...

Yay! I voted this morning too! (I had to go back to Brooklyn though ... I hopped on the bus from Queens, got to Brooklyn, found the polling location and it was easy-peasy!) Everyone seems excited. Keeping fingers crossed for real change!

Deutlich said...

i think we're going to see record numbers for voters this year... and that makes me happy

I'm sad they didn't give you a sticker though!!~! THAT BITES!

Under-Employed Girl said...

I was living in Englad for the Bush/Gore election too! It was awful having everyone ask me what was going on with American politics and why didn't we have a president yet!!