I’ve been doing this since I was first able to and not doing it has never crossed my mind. The first time was in New York decades—a veritable lifetime—ago. I’ve done it in Connecticut, Chicago, Alaska, and Iowa; and this afternoon I did it again. Often I also do it in the years in between. But it’s the ones that occur every four years that bring me in a minuscule way into the current of our nation’s history.
It’s a task I seriously and one I prepare for. I’ve never been any single party’s loyalist; in fact I’ve been registered in both parties, and have been an independent longer than I’ve been a member of either party. It was important, maybe especially this time around, to keep an open mind and consider what’s best for all: businesspersons and veterans, the young and the old, the haves and the have nots. In doing my duty today I once again became part of a noble experiment begun on these shores over two centuries ago. I took my place in a line of citizens, possible a billion long by now, who’ve chosen a caretaker of our nation’s needs and interests. My own forebears in that line had, I suspect, voted for good presidents and bad, some motivated by high ideals and others by base motives. Yet even the low points in our history have not broken this constitutional democracy. That in itself is an astounding fact.
Voting is a right, and it’s also a rite—of sorts. Upon presenting a single document each of us is absolutely equal. At few other points in our lives are our different circumstances neutralized for the sake of fairness in the democratic process. While waiting at City Hall I thought of new citizens, who may be voting for the first time in their lives. I thought of those around the world who’ve only recently been granted a right that has been secure for us since the birth of the republic. I thought of those in war-torn countries where even the prospect of such a process is at best a dim hope. It’s hard not to feel a sense of privilege as sheet with blacked-in ovals slides into the machine.
My teenager will be able to vote in the next presidential election, joining the long line of citizens who’ve steered our government with a few straightforward choices every four years. I don’t know what my kid’s emotions will be at that point, but I trust the vote will be a responsible one. (I seem to recall merely a sense of satisfaction at having done my civic duty that first time.) As parents we vote with our children’s futures in mind, certain that our form of government will continue through their lives.
Despite all the negativity with which we’ve been bombarded lately, the act of voting is an optimistic one, not merely in our hope that our candidate will win (which is obvious) but in the faith we have in our system of government. The older I get (and today was my ninth presidential election), the more this amazes me. And the more humble I get during those few moments at the poll.