Why Bother to Vote?

We don't blame you if you've got election fatigue. But your ballot still matters, as this mom passionately reminds us.

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Ah, politics—'tis the season, right? For me, not so much. I don't talk parties, candidates or anything of the sort on Facebook or my blog. Many of my friends have differing opinions and since I'm both a Libra and a Minnesotan, conflict of any kind makes me twitchy. I may "like" friends' political posts, and depending upon where I am in my cycle, possibly even comment. But in general I tend to keep my cards close to my vest. If someone asks me point-blank, then yes, I will spill the beans. Otherwise, for the most part, sticking to generalities seems the wiser choice.

A Split Ticket

One night this past summer, I cast a ballot in a seemingly unimportant primary to determine who would get to be on the general ballot for the Minnesota Supreme Court election. Truth be told, had my friend Andrea not emailed a bunch of us reminding us to vote, it might have slipped my mind entirely. After all, it was August. The air was steamy and turbid. And frankly, we were all already sick and tired of hearing about elections.

But her message moved me to do the right thing, and so after I was done with evening chauffeur duties, I hauled myself over to the tiny fire station where I have been voting for the better part of my adult life.

The poll workers, clearly bored when I arrived, seemed delighted to have something to do. The entire process took about two minutes, then they handed over my "I VOTED" sticker. Within a hot minute, the tears started.

Crying a little after voting is nothing new for me, so it wasn't completely unexpected. (Full disclosure: I'm what I call an easy weeper—tears are more or less at the ready 24/7 and don't require much coaxing.) I'm the woman who proudly dragged four writhing children to the polls with me, eager to show them that their mom took doing her civic duty seriously. And also it was always fun to have them fight over who got the "I VOTED" sticker. Bless the hearts of the kindly sticker-givers who handed out multiples.

Lesson Learned

My own mother was certainly not without shortcomings, but she did stress the importance of voting. As a teacher and a rider of the women's lib wave, she was obviously a liberal-leaning Democrat, and that's what I soaked up as a kid. Imagine her surprise when my succession of boyfriends and then eventual husband were staunch Republicans.

But let's not get into left/right, red state/blue state and taking sides. As many annoying memes have told us, we aren't going to change anyone's mind with silly things like words and facts and opposing ideas on the Internet or anywhere else.

What we can do, though, and I wish more people would, is TALK ABOUT VOTING. (Yes, I'm shouting.) Brag about it, take selfies, email, text, post, share polling locations and times. Social media is such an odd beast, right? Who would have thought that there'd come a day when we'd take pictures of our dinners and put them out there for all the world to see? If we can use this medium for such trivial things, we can use it for more pressing matters. Don't get me wrong: I relish a good shot of a cheeseburger or a cocktail just as much as the next person, but I also love to see people flexing their 'Merica muscles. It may feel as though we don't have voices in this system, that we are cogs in a bloated, vile and corrupt machine, but dammit: People died for this right. African Americans have endured especially unjust and epic struggles for it. And women? We've only been able to vote since 1920. For some of us, that means our grandmothers were alive when women had zero say in who represented us in the government. Can you even imagine? I can't.

Maybe that's why I cry when I vote. Thinking about all those brave, strong ladies taking care of a million kids and husbands and elderly relatives and doing it all without a single one of the modern conveniences even the brokest of us now enjoy and said, "WTF? My voice doesn't matter? Umm . . . I call BS, fellas." Okay, so they probably didn't actually say that but they did eventually say something, and thank goodness.

Or maybe I cry because there are women in other countries who were only very recently granted the right to vote. Yep. It's 2016 and women in Saudi Arabia only started voting in December 2015. Still can't drive, leave the country or open up a freaking bank account without their male guardian's permission, but baby steps, right? (Spoiler alert: I started bawling as I typed this. For heaven's sake, please tell your daughters never to take their right to vote for granted.)

I do know they aren't tears of regret. Not once have I looked back and thought that voting was a waste of time. Even when the results aren't what I wanted, I know that by voting I at least earned the right to bitch about it.

On November 8, I will cast my vote for our next president. Three of my four children will do so as well. I predict the tears falling after this one will be epic. Whether they're happy or sad, that's up to us.

Please vote.