For as long as I remember, my mother worked our local voting station as a Judge of Elections. The polls were just about 100 yards from my house, if I traveled there out of the rusty gate held together with rope in my backyard. There were 2 voting machines, big and sturdy as tanks, nestled between a couple card tables and all housed in the back of a fire station behind the trucks where the volunteer firefighters stored their uniforms and supplies. There were even times that voting had to be suspended for 15 minutes as the firemen rushed to retrieve their trucks to get to an emergency.
Tradition dictated that every Election Day at around 7:30 pm, a half hour before polls closed, I’d be allowed to run over to the fire station where my mom waited and “help her vote.” She’d point to the levers she wanted me to pull, and I’d stretch to reach for them. Calm down Republicans, there was no voter fraud happening behind the curtain, just an introduction to civic responsibility.
When I turned 18, I practically ran to the post office to register to vote. My first presidential election was my freshman year of college, and I can remember spreading out my poster-sized absentee ballot across my tiny dormitory bed. I took a deep breath and voted for my first Democrat, a rebellious act in my family akin to setting a pet on fire.
I have no time for voter apathy. There’s just no excuse not to vote. My generation has grown up in a time when MTV asked Clinton “Boxers or briefs?” and told us to “Choose or Lose,” P Diddy threatened us with “Vote or Die,” and the Supreme Court decided the 200 election after the state of Florida’s Presidential vote totals were separated by a paltry 527 votes. That’s fewer people than most people have as Facebook friends.
Four years ago, it was absolutely exhilarating to be part of a movement of millions of people engaged in the political process in a meaningful way. It was the first time in my lifetime that a Presidential candidate triggered an emotional response in me and inspired so many of my friends. There have been ups and downs over the last four years, but overall, I consider President Obama’s administration a remarkable success, particularly considering the obstacles with which he had to deal since the day he was inaugurated.
President Obama’s successes run broad and deep and include many improvements of social and fiscal policies. He has contained the damage from an economic crisis, ordered the strike on our most reviled terrorist enemy and signed equal pay measures for women. Intellectually, strategically and temperamentally, he has restored dignity to the office of President. His investment in health care and education speaks to the most basic hierarchy of needs of the electorate. Symbolically he stands as a figure who represents that anything is possible. Personally, he represents someone I’d never thought I would witness in my lifetime: a President who spoke openly and clearly about the equal rights of LGBT individuals.
Full disclosure, as in the last Presidential election, I’ll be working for the President’s campaign as part of the Voter Protection Team. I can’t afford to give money like a huge corporation, so I donate time and effort instead. I’ll be troubleshooting on Election Day, making sure that every eligible Pennsylvanian is allowed to exercise his or her right to vote.
You may disagree with me. Polls show that some of you do. And you know what? That’s great. You know what you’re up against on Election Day, and you have the chance to cancel out my vote at the polls by choosing whom I consider to be an unacceptable alternative.
Vote, even though no one will ever know if you don’t!