In another one of life’s little ironies, the pandemic brought me around full circle to voting by mail this year.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the first state that made all voting into mail in voting. I cast my first ballot as an 18 year old college student via the U.S. Postal service from a few thousand miles away from home.
Voting exclusively by mail in my home state was contentious for a few years in the 1990’s, but voters overwhelmingly informed the legislature that they preferred the privacy and convenience of casting ballots remotely as of 1998.
Oh, yeah, and my birth state routinely gets double the turnout* for primaries and other less sexy elections, so enfranchisement is definitely a thing. To be clear, every type of individual achieved greater representation via mail in voting in Oregon. People of different ages, political affiliations, races, etc., all saw higher turnout in my state, and fraud has never been a significant issue.
As an Independent voter who eschews the false polarity of the American political parties, I believe in enabling the enfranchisement of every eligible citizen. When anyone acts to suppress another’s vote, I assume that group lacks natural authority or the right to wield power.
Today, I dropped my completed ballot—and those of my spouse, mother-in-law, and father-in-law—into an official drop box outside our town’s City Hall.
I sent an email first to confirm that it was okay to submit a ballot on behalf of a family member! This year would be a terrible one in which to make a foolish logistical mistake that invalidates one’s ballot.
Turning in my envelope reminded me of how, the first time I voted, it felt a bit like I was missing something by not setting foot in a polling place. Having voted in person for a couple of decades now, I particularly missed receiving my “I Voted” sticker.According to the Boston Globe, I’m not the only one† who feels this way.
I will trade the fleeting pleasure of a celebratory sticker for the enduring satisfaction of taking part in a democratic election, however. I’m exceedingly grateful that I live in a state where everyone is entitled to the peace of mind granted by access to absentee ballots in the midst of a worldwide health emergency.
I voted early in hopes of alleviating congestion at the polls on election day. I voted early because there are no close races on my ballot that require further study or reflection. Now, I will hope and pray that every citizen of age in America will be given his or her own opportunity to do the same thing, and to vote his or her conscience.
Here are two great things I’ve learned about as I’ve read up on the current election:
- In my state of residence, I can track my absentee (mail in) ballot online. Check your state’s web site or this CNET article and see how you can do the same where you live.
- Teens can pre-register to vote in many states as early as age 16. By doing so, they are less likely to forget this important civic duty in the run up to an election at a busy time of life, like being away at college for the first time.
Your opinions matter. Your vote counts. Exercise your right to be heard!
God bless America.
* Compared to states using more traditional, in person polling places, according to this OPB article. You can see for yourself at Ballotpedia that Oregon has exceeded average voter turnout in every election since 2002.
† According to the comments, however, a lot of Massholes think my feelings are stupid!