We recently celebrated a leap year, which incidentally means that it is a presidential election year in the United States. Whether you are a political junkie or refuse to touch any campaign with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole, there is no denying that the election is happening with or without you. Although I have a degree in political science, I’m not terribly political. In my opinion, in America we spend too much time focusing on the people rather than on the policies. For example, when I hear those around me discuss politics, I hear ‘Warren,’ ‘Trump,’ and ‘Sanders’ with a far greater frequency than I hear terms like ‘immigration policy,’ ‘health care reform,’ and ‘civil works projects.’ It is as if the presidential elections in the U.S. are beauty contests. We are desperately looking for someone to head the country rather than the somethings (policies) that underpin our state and governance. While I have strong feelings about the American electoral process, it is not worth my time to single-handedly try to overhaul a centuries-old system. So, instead of trying to beat the machine, I will content myself to play the game.
A few days ago, I voted in the Massachusetts primary election. Many years an out-of-stater, I have cast my ballot via the United States Postal Service in advance of the elections. However, this year, as an official resident I headed out to the polls. While the poll booths open on Tuesday for the presidential primary elections, I took advantage of the early voting opportunities available in my community. With a flexible work schedule, I was lucky enough to stroll over to the local library one weekday afternoon and cast my vote with little disruption to my normal routine. The process was simple. I approached a table manned by a volunteer. The woman asked for my name and she then printed my full name on a sticker which was placed onto a manila envelope. I took my small package to another volunteer who retrieved a ballot and slid it into the envelop. I was then directed to cast my vote in a small, makeshift booth that was cloaked with red and blue curtains.
The little booth flooded me with memories of my ‘first’ election. The first election that I remember experiencing was the 2000 presidential election which saw Republican candidate George W. Bush narrowly defeat the democratic nominee, Al Gore (the incumbent vice president). Unbeknownst to me, this election would be one of the closest elections in U.S. history, which hung on a few “hanging chads” (ballot cards that were not properly punched resulting in improperly tallied ballots) in Florida. Ignorant to this controversy, I have two real memories of the election. One, in my elementary school the teachers simulated the election by having the fifth graders cast presidential votes—our conservative leaning district produced George W. Bush as the president. Two, I remember going into the voting booth with my mom. Although she shielded her vote from me, she let me accompany her to the municipal building, wait in line, and enter the booth with her.
Now, twenty years later, I am entering the voting booth for the first time on my own in a new state. All the volunteers at the library were friendly and even though I am a smidge apathetic to politics, it felt good to cast my vote. In Russian, the word vote “golos” literally means “voice.” As a small person in an ocean of about 400 million, my individual “voice” still counts (if only a little bit). If you have anything to say about the future of our country (even if it is just a write-in), voting is one of the few ways in which you can actually see the effect that you had on the political system. So, go out and vote (or don’t, either way it’s your right 🙂 )!
Wishing you a peaceful and democratic election season!