Monday, November 01, 2010

The voting habit

I'm kicking myself for not voting early in this midterm election. It's so much easier than trying to vote before my morning commute.

I'm still going to vote tomorrow morning, though. It's a habit.

There is a lot of worry, particularly among the Democrats, about turnout for this election. In 2008 a lot of occasional and first-time voters turned out for then candidate Barack Obama. I hope some of them will make it a habit and that anyone who has only recently started voting will take it seriously and start participating in every election. Yes, I mean conservatives and Republicans as well. Everyone who is eligible and able to should vote. And if people choose not to vote, I really hope it's an intentional decision - something they spent time thinking about, rather than just a matter of convenience.

The 2008 election was historic and I spent a lot of time thinking about the multiple firsts in that election as well as my own history with our process.

As I told my roller skating coach during a discussion after the election (yes, I had a roller skating coach), I've been a low-level political junkie since grade school. I watched the party conventions every four years with my parents, walked into the voting booth at my elementary school with my mother, and had a father who worked the polls many years. He also taught civics, so we talked a lot about politics. Sometimes I was just listening, but I was paying attention.

By the 1980 presidential election (Carter, Reagan) I was as engaged as I could be as a kid - I remember being really angry that kids couldn't vote. Was this our country or not?

It's always strange for me when I read about people well into adulthood who are voting (or registering to vote) for the very first time. I'm working on being less judgmental and they are adults, so I can let that go. I just can't quite comprehend it.

I've voted in most of the elections for which I've been eligible (I won't say all, because no one is perfect and I'm sure someone could pull a record and find a voting opportunity I missed). But I really feel it's important; the weight of history is a powerful reminder.

It helps that early in my adult life paying attention to elections was part of my job as a newspaper reporter. Really there's no excuse if you're covering an election. You have the information and constant reminders of where to vote and what it means.

And during that period, when I voted at the same precinct - located in a senior apartment complex - the women working the poll would always greet voters with a big smile and, I later learned, really remembered the people who came through each election. On one election day I voted in the afternoon, much later than usual. They made a big to-do about it, saying they'd wondered where I was, "because you always vote."

I hope that more people will register and vote for the first time. And make it a habit.

Some links for Election Day:
10 Tips from the ACLU for voting
Federal Election Commission

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