|Photo Courtesy of aperte via Flickr|
As a kid, it was something fun to do, but in retrospect, it was a great way to teach us about voting and the process. Not that I needed that lesson. My family has always been civically responsible. In fact, by the time I was in high school, my mother was a local elected official, and I spent Election Day working the polls on her behalf. I can honestly say, I have a great appreciation for the political process (vitriol and mudslinging aside). I remember standing, from early morning till nearly poll-closing, handing out literature. Most of the time, all of us poll workers, even when we were supporting different candidates, had a sense of comeraderie (how could we not after enough ornery voters had passed us by, refusing our literature and smiling faces?). Election night meant staying up late, watching the returns come in (or better yet, attending a party somewhere). I haven't gone to bed on time on an Election Day in 20 years.
Living in D.C. brings with it a whole different electricity on Election Day. Without Congressional representation, there's not a lot that we vote for that counts for much, but our local elections really matter. This year one of the candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commission in my neighborhood has done the ultimate in voter outreach. He's hosted mixers, made personal phone calls, and (my favorite) sent out handwritten, personalized letters. I spent a good 15 minutes talking to him one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, he has earned my vote wholeheartedly! Because what really matters, to me and, I would hazard a guess, to many of my neighbors, is constituent relations. I've already mentioned my love for Jim Graham's staff. If you want things done in what can be a dysfunctional city, you've got to have someone you can call.
And frankly, in return for earning our vote, our elected officials owe us their attention. Even when the person representing you is not the candidate you supported, they still have a responsibility to listen to you. It's a part of good citizenship to ask much of our elected leaders. It's also good citizenship to get out and vote. There aren't many people in my sphere who don't vote, but the ones that I can think of have been browbeaten by me about the responsibility of voting. (Don't even get me started on what a privilege it is to be able to vote and what people in other countries -- not to mention our own -- have gone through for the right to vote.)
There's a new trend emerging to encourage early voting. It's a great idea in theory, but there's just something so exciting to me about going to the polls on Election Day. When I was in college, I had to vote absentee, which was always really depressing. No proudly pulling the lever (because that's how they did it in those days). No campaign workers issuing last ditch attempts to get my vote. No "I Voted!" sticker. Just a pencil and a stamp. Boring. That's why I'm not going to vote early (or often!). This year, I'll be waiting in line at the polls, same as I do every Election Day, filling out my ballot, and proudly wearing my "I Voted!" sticker all day long like a (possibly dorky) badge of honor. Because Election Day really is my favorite holiday.