Party On, Voters

Some of you may have noticed there is an election upon us. Weird how these things just kind of creep up, isn’t it? I mean, jeez, maybe we could advertise this? Maybe send a gentle reminder in the mail? Maybe put up a sign or mark the date on the calendar? It seems sort of important and all.

Truthfully, I’ve already exercised my patriotic duty. One year I was going to be out of town and requested an absentee ballot and from then on I’ve enjoyed the luxury of voting in the comfort of my own living room. Soy nuggets in one hand, black ballpoint pen in the other. Convenient, sure, but it’s also very anticlimactic. It’s not that different from filling out a customer service survey rating at your local Thai restaurant or the warranty on your new garbage disposal, is it? There is something about walking into your polling place, smiling at the elderly volunteers, stepping into your private voting box and for one brief moment being able to say, “This!” and “That!” and “Not if my life depended on it, sucka!” For that brief moment, YOU rule America and have earned yourself the right to bitch and moan for the next 4 years. And you get one of those cool “I voted!” pins. Can we lobby to include those in the next round of absentee ballots? I really want one.

My vote is essentially a cancelation of my brother’s vote. He’s very Alex P. Keaton and I’m…well…not. I could cancel out my mother’s vote or my father’s vote but I choose to cancel Mike’s. I’m the black sheep in my family when it comes to politics. The cheese stands alone at Thanksgiving. It’s a source of contention and one we agree not to talk about (although Mike sent me an email two days ago saying “I can’t wait until Wednesday so I can say I told you so!”) Oh okay, brother, real mature. Saying, “I told you so” in regards to the results of a presidential election? Just for the record he never said I told you so. He said, “one of us will be moving to Canada and it ain’t going to be me.” And he’s older. Go figure.

For the last two months my mailbox has been filled with flyers and postcards urging me to vote yes on this, no on that, and get a free side of Parmesan breadsticks with any large pizza order. I save them all (even the breadsticks offer) and stack them in a pile along with my absentee ballot. The pile grows daily as everyone wants a little bit of my ballpoint pen action. The flyers do little to sway me but I do like to see who used their fundraising efforts to spam my mailbox and rate their artistic merits. I work in marketing after all. But sometimes I wish the people behind the propositions would just lay off the double negatives. Did these people not have 6th grade English? There are so many “shall nots” and “shall heretos” that reading through the entire text resembles traveling through a house of mirrors. I can’t find my way through this thing! By the time I finish, I’m wondering “am I for this or against it?” I could care less if The Seattle Times supports this measure. If they would only say, “People who don’t make much money and really like dogs, the color orange, and going out to breakfast will more than likely support this initiative.” Dog lovers I can trust.

When it came time to vote last week I cleared off my desk and prepared to read the voter’s pamphlet while watching House.

If I have 3 things on my dinner plate and 1 is my favorite, I tend to save the best for last. I know, stupid theory. You’re generally too full to finish but I will anyway because my favorite food is sitting there and therefore I end up overeating my way to a stomachache. Voting is different. I go to my favorite categories first and leave the ill-worded measures for last. In this case, I went directly to Court of Appeals, Division 2, District 2. Just kidding! Of course I found myself staring down the list of presidential hopefuls.

I had a brief moment of altruism in thinking I would let my Italian friend fill in the bubble so he could have the feeling of voting. He’s more into American polictics than Fox News and probably won’t be voting himself until the next presidential election after he applies for citizenship. It’s a nice gesture, no? And one that only works because I know he would vote for the same candidate as me. But alas, seeing the names on my ballot filled me with an odd sense of something I still can’t find the right word for (I’ve even used the thesaurus but nothing seems to fit.)

All those television ads and bumperstickers and lawn signs and debates. Those pins on messenger bags, and CNN reports, Saturday Night Live skits, and national conventions. The millions of dollars spent trying to get my attention and subsequently my vote. It all comes down to this. To names printed on a piece of paper. The names of our future president right there along side “Parks for All” and “Save Pike Place Market!” measures. And it’s my job, my right, my privledge to select one of these names. I’m voting for president and it looks like I’m voting for Pete McCooney for 7th grade treasurer.

I have voted in every election I was able to and that includes casting a vote for president 4 times. Yet this is the first time that I felt like my ink dot was about to make history. It was as if the eyes of every nation were on me, at my desk, surrounded by junk mail and cold soy nuggets, holding their collective breaths waiting for me to cast my vote. I’m sorry, Italian Friend, a lot of people went through a lot of work to give me this right. I can’t hand it off to you.

And that’s when I thought about it. I mean really thought about it. This wasn’t just about choosing the next president. It was giving a nod and a shout out to all those women who chained themselves to courthouses to give me this privilege to vote. Would I have been willing to go through what they did? March miles across the country? Long before sneakers had air cushioned soles? Do I have the dedication and determination to have picketed, stage demonstrations and risk going to jail so almost 90 years later women would have the right to vote in the comfort of their own living rooms? Tell me again why some people don’t bother participating in elections?

There was no question who I was voting for yet I couldn’t make the mark on my ballot. The importance of what I was about to do gave me an odd feeling of stage fright. I kept thinking what if there’s an earthquake right now and I accidentally fill in the other candidate’s dot? What if a dog eats my ballot on the way to the post office?What if I’m disqualified for using a blue pen when everyone knows you can only use red? Can I use a blue pen? I double-checked the ballot six times to make sure blue was okay. Then I checked online just to make triple sure. Then I switched to black because black is what my teacher’s in high school said we should use when signing business letters. I’m sure they meant filling out absentee ballots too. I have never performed an act as simple as filling in a tiny circle with a black ballpoint pen with such deliberate, enthusiastic concentration. And when I was complete I stared at it. Perfection! And then I took a picture of it. And then I emailed it to my brother with a note that said “Thanks for voting. Consider yourself canceled.”

The next day I brought my sealed and signed ballot to work and spent the next five hours trying to figure out how to ensure it actually made it’s way into the postal system. I couldn’t leave it in a pigeon hole on the 4th floor like one of my Netflix movies in hopes someone from the shipping department will collect it and postmark it before election day. I could bring it down to shipping myself but what if there was a fire before the mail was collected and all my hard work and nice penmanship went up in flames? I could take it directly to the post office but what if a jaded employee could somehow read my party preference by the way I was dressed or how I walked or how I smelled and took my ballot out and shredded it! Does that ever even happen? What’s wrong with me?!

Clearly I am not alone as the King County Election geniuses had implemented drop boxes as another option for the obsessive, paranoid, mistrustful absentee ballot voters to drop off their ballots. And hey! Saves postage. Even more blessed was the fact a drop box existed less than a mile from work.

I brought my Italian friend with me. There’s safety in numbers.

“Here,” I said handing him my sealed envelop. “Go vote.”

“Wow! Thanks!” He almost got hit by a Prius dashing off to the drop box (and he’d kill me for saying he dashed, but really, that’s what he did.)

“How’d that feel?” I asked him when he was safely back in the car.

“Amazing,” he said.

I should have married my Italian friend last year so my party could have one more vote.

I got an email from my brother this morning. It was another one of those “Please read before it’s too late!” messages, which went on to explain how the candidate of my choice is anti-American. This myth, like all the others, was debunked back in April when it first started circulating.

Check your sources! I wrote back. Besides, my vote was cast last week.

Well consider yourself canceled, he wrote back. Sorry you went through all that trouble.

Whatever gets people motivated to vote, I suppose.

Happy Election Day. May the best man win. For real this time.