Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Right, Privilege and Duty
Today, on my second attempt to do so, I cast my votes in the American elections. I voted for a president, a senator, a congressman and a local bond issue. As Dave and I approached the polling station on attempt #1, at 6:15 a.m., we found the streets lined with parked cars. We parked two blocks away from the polling place (an elementary school), walked up the hill to the school and beheld several hundred people lined up outside of the school. Since I had to attend a meeting at 8:00 a.m., I decide to come back and vote later in the day. Since Dave had taken the day off from work, he decided to let the initial crowd go through, then come back a couple of hours later to cast his votes.
Having left work early, I drove to the polling place again and arrived at approximately 2:00 p.m. This time, the parking lot was about 80% full, but there was no line outside of the school. I entered the building, checked in and was escorted to an electronic voting machine. The 8 electronic machines were supplemented by approximately 10 stations for completing paper ballots. Even though most of the electronic and paper stations were in continuous use while I was in the building, the election officials kept the operation running very smoothly. I suspect that the polling place will be overcrowded again in the early evening, when people come by to vote on their way home from their workplaces. Based on what I saw this afternoon, however, I anticipate that all of the voters who arrive this evening will get to cast their votes before the polls close.
Why was I compelled to make two attempts to vote today? Why did I arrive at work early and work through my lunch break so that I could go to the polling station again? Why was I determined to stand in line for several hours this time, if necessary (fortunately, it wasn't), to push that VOTE button? I did it because, as many others have pointed out, voting is one of the most precious rights in the world. Voting is a right that I've been guaranteed by the American Constitution. In addition to being a right, voting is a privilege. Most people throughout history never got to vote for their leaders. Many people throughout the world today still don't have such opportunities. Turn the clock back 100 years and I wouldn't have the opportunity either. I'm privileged to live in a republic that does not deem me a second-class citizen on the basis of my gender and, in fact, solicits my civic participation. In addition to considering voting my right and my privilege, I consider it my duty. If I want governments (federal, state and local) to pursue particular policies, then I've got to tell them what I want and hold them accountable for doing those things. Voting is one way that I can accomplish those tasks. Do the various levels of government ever do exactly what I want? No, but at least they know that my point of view is one of many that they must consider when they sort through their options. If I'm not willing to participate in the system by voting, then I've got no business complaining when the government fails or disappoints me.
Was it really any big deal that I had to go out twice today to vote? No. It's difficult to consider it as even a minor inconvenience. As far as I'm concerned, voting is a right, a privilege and a duty that I'll be pleased to exercise faithfully until the day I die.