We Choose

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 (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images))

Early voting, mail-in and absentee ballots are great, but in this archived Perspective, Wendy Stancer misses something special when voting with her neighbors on election day.

I cast my vote by absentee ballot this year. It’s not the first time that I’ve voted absentee. I did so during my college years, when ties to my hometown were still stronger than those to my new city, and when I’ve been away from home on election day. But this year I felt forced to vote absentee. When questions arose about the electronic voting systems in some California counties, my county was on the list. This election is so important that I decided the best way to insure my vote will be counted was to vote on paper.

But the peace of mind I’ve gained means that I’ve lost something as well. Some people view going to the polls as a burden or irritation, but I’ve always loved it. For me election day seems almost like a holiday, the day we stop what we’re doing and say collectively, “We choose.” It is the most tangible demonstration of both freedom and responsibility in a democracy.

I treasure those few moments spent waiting for my turn in the voting booth and use them to look around me at the faces of my neighbors. So many of them look different from mine in my ethnically diverse Oakland neighborhood. What binds us together in this place on this day is that we have all come to exercise our most important right and perform our duty to vote. In those few moments I feel a powerful sense of community and country. A feeling that despite differing political views and the many problems that face our nation, we believe in the democratic process that has kept it strong.

But I won’t have that feeling this year. Instead, when I slipped my ballot into the mailbox, proud as always to have participated, I was also wistful for the sense of American identity that I used to feel when I voted at the polls with my neighbors on election day.


With a Perspective, I’m Wendy Stancer.

Wendy Stancer is a Northern California native.

UPDATE: This piece originally aired in 2004. The reference to ‘questions. . . about electronic voting systems in some counties. . .’ is no longer current.