Thinking about voting

May 17, 2015

Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936
I worked on a project the other day that is about getting more states to use vote-by-mail (VBM) by accepting digital signatures—which the IRS & many other federal and state governments do. I know that in the three states that are entirely VBM, many more people vote. I know it’s the future (as are all things digital).

But… among my earliest & most treasured memories is that of going with my dad when he voted over at Sioux Falls College. I got to pull that big lever & he made sure I understood that what I did mattered. As a refugee & naturalized citizen, he didn’t take voting for granted.

Part of what I like is running into neighbors at my polling place, getting the sticker that announces "I voted," even waiting on line. I lived in Colorado in 1972. While we were still in a long line, someone announced that the election was over and Nixon had won. I was incensed: What about me?! What about MY vote?

Making this civic, communal duty into a private & utilitarian act rubs me the wrong way. I often mention Nelson Mandela standing under the hot sun for hours as a way to show how much voting matters in places where people don’t have or didn’t have or had to fight for that right. Women in this country went to jail for the right to vote.

I know I’m sounding a little buggy-whip right about now, but voting is something I can't be cynical about or indifferent to. I know it is or should be only the beginning of civic engagement, and that it's not the fault of the process if ignorant, crazy pols are elected but of citizens who don't bother finding out about the issues and candidates.


  1. May 21, 2015 10:09 AM EDT
    I have lived in all mail-in ballot states for quite a while now( not digital). The first mail-in I thought this was horrible because we would lose that wonderful feeling of voting and making a difference but the percentage of people voting has gone up so much that it is so worth it. I would never want to go backwards to the booth.
    - Becky
  2. May 21, 2015 12:13 PM EDT
    Thanks for letting me know this—it makes the inevitable way more palatable. You're right, of course, that the point is voting not my sentimental idea about it. cheers, Elinor