Almost everything these days is online. I do a LOT of shopping online. I file my taxes online. Keeping in touch with friends and family is less and less about writing an email and more and more about commenting on Facebook or sending a text message. Handwritten letters? Fuggedaboutit. And last but not least, this year I’m planning my vegetable garden pretty much via Pinterest, after weeks and weeks of scoffing about it. To boot, election season has been in gear for a while now, meaning that the news (and my Facebook News Feed) are filled up with articles and people’s commentary on the candidates and the issues.
But the one thing that’s still in person is voting, especially in the primary elections where the political parties choose a candidate. Today, March 6, 2012 is Super Tuesday – a day when the greatest number of states hold their primary elections or caucuses. All states offer the option to vote via absentee ballot, and Oregon and Washington are both pretty much entirely vote-by-mail. But by and large, voting is still an in-person event.
Super Tuesday in 2012 ain’t what it used to be for this presidential primary. In 2008, 24 states held their contests, in 2012 it will be just 10 states. Many states have moved up their primaries to be earlier in the year so they can presumably have an earlier say in choosing the nominee. And while the Republican field of candidates has narrowed over the last several months, the nomination is not necessarily a lock for any one candidate. The results of Super Tuesday this year could determine the Republican nominee – or maybe not!
Voting is personal. While you could vote using a touchscreen machine or a paper ballot, if you vote at your polling place, then you’re actually driving or walking there. You might see your friends and neighbors. You might see people who you don’t know yet, but who you recognize. You will almost certainly see volunteers outside the polling place who feel passionately about the candidates and the issues. Chances are that you might have decided already, but not necessarily.
Caucuses are even more personal – you go to your caucus site, talk to your neighbors, hash it out, and make up your mind.
In my world these days, I spend a lot of time behind a computer at work. My phone is never far away from my hand, unless one of my 2-year-olds has absconded with it to try to get it to play an Elmo video. Social media takes up a lot of headspace, to the point that I’ve consciously decided to eliminate some of it because there’s just too much to keep up with. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!
But when I walk into a voting booth, all of that fades away for a moment. I remember how people have fought and died to get the right to vote, and how many people in the world today still don’t have that right. Heck, the number of years that women in the U.S. have been allowed to vote isn’t yet into the triple digits (1920 was when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified). That’s why I make sure that I always vote, even when it’s a non-contested municipal primary election with only one candidate on the ballot (this has happened).
So I hope today that you’ll take a moment to reflect on voting and what it means to you. Whether this primary is the one you’ll vote in or not, I hope you participate in our representative democracy every chance you get.