Last week I sat down to perusing the mail-in ballot that I would use for the very first time in my 34 years as a registered voter. Friends ask what took me so long -- after all, it is so much more convenient than trudging down to my polling place today before work. When I voted in the primary, there were noticeably fewer people in line -- mostly elderly voters who were retired and in no rush. As I waited to fill out my ballot card, I thought of my friends, who had voted from the comfort of home and simply dropped their ballot into the mail. Why was I still making the trek to the polling place? My father taught me long ago that, as a citizen of this country, it was my responsibility to vote. Because of the rumors of long lines stretching around the block at polling places today the time had come to mail in my ballot.
So, why wasn't I happier examining the ballot at leisure, sipping coffee while watching the endless talk shows and news programs, reading the endorsements and then popping my ballot into the mail box?
Pride -- that's it -- plain and simple. The ephemeral esteem I felt walking into that fire station, signing the polling place register, taking my ballot into the booth, punching the holes or connecting the lines, dropping it into sealed box, and receiving my "I Voted" sticker from a beaming volunteer. It's long been my way of re-committing myself to my country and the rights I have enjoyed as a citizen.
My mail-in ballot came with an "I Voted" sticker, and I'll display it proudly on my shirt when I stand before my class today. The school where I teach is also a polling place. Each Election Day I also have my students cast their own ballots in a mock election before taking them for a tour of the polling place just footsteps from our classroom door. Many have parents who are not citizens and have never voted in this country. Hopefully some of the civic pride on display at the voting booths will rub off on them.
After all, in just eight years it will be their turn to exercise this privilege whether they go to the polls or just mail it in.