Image: My vote-by-mail ballot, which I will hand in tomorrow. (Photo by Ruth Adar)
I just filled out my vote-by-mail ballot for the June 5 Primary Election in California. Tomorrow I’ll take it by one of the collection points and drop it off.
I like voting by mail. I can think things through and give each choice the attention it deserves. I like reading the instructions, considering the choices, and making the marks that are my participation in the democratic process.
My grandmother felt strongly about voting. She was in that first cohort of American women who were eligible to vote after ratification of the 19th Amendment on Aug 18, 1920. She used words like “sacred” to describe the right and the duty of each person to vote. She told me that she’d come back and haunt me if I didn’t vote in every election I could: “If you can, you must!” she said, poking my arm for emphasis.
So here you go, Meme: I voted again. Thank you for teaching me that it is important.
I regard voting as a sacred duty. There is no commandment that says specifically “Thou Shalt Vote” but almost every item on the ballot has sacred implications. When I vote for a legislator, I am choosing someone to be my voice in Washington or Sacramento, or on a more local body. They will make many decisions with ethical implications – I need to choose someone who will make ethical choices. When I vote for a judge or an executive, I am voting for someone who will have tremendous power to do good or to do evil. To make it even more complicated, I have to think, too, about the chances each candidate has: under what conditions should I vote for the good-enough person who can get elected, instead of the perfect candidate who can’t?
I understand why some people are so sunken in despair that they think their vote doesn’t matter. I have less sympathy for those who choose not to vote because they are cynical: I want to say, “You think you are so smart, why are you throwing away your power?”
I’m not going to tell you for whom I voted. (That was my grandmother’s advice, too.) But I will ask you: Did you vote? Will you vote when you next have a chance?