Every time I vote I remember the first time I voted. My polling place was an old folks' home in Catonsville, Maryland, and I remember standing in an endless line of old people; the whole building smelled like baby powder and disinfectant. I was so excited to be voting, having waited so long for the right, and I was probably the only person smiling in the line. It took about an hour to get up to the booth, pull the curtain and cast my vote. I stayed up all night and watched the returns. My candidate won.
Voting is the most important responsibility we have as citizens of this country. Full stop. So why do approximately 40% of eligible voters stay home? Voter turnout this year is likely to be lower than eight years ago in one of the most polarizing elections in, well, four years. A vote that is split nearly evenly down the middle, as it has been for the past three elections, in hardly a referendum or a clear indication of what the country actually wants. Why do people stay home? Apathy? Ignorance? Disenfranchisement? Probably a combination of the three.
I have been saying that no matter who wins this election, we all lose. Until everyone who is eligible votes makes it to the polls, and until there is a clear unity in the direction of the country, Americans will continue to bicker, squabble and be disrespectful of each other's choices. "This American Life" on NPR had a story on Sunday about how we are no longer able to discuss politics, that it is less about trying to understand the other's point of view and more about getting them to change their minds; both sides call the other one ignorant, uneducated and foolish, and both sides are equally distorting facts and statistics to make their points. Friendships and families are tested during election season; I cannot speak to my brother at all about politics, so divided are we.
This deep divide in the country is not right either, but perhaps the issue is that we are not all involved, and if everyone who could vote, did, then we would actually understand better the pulse of the country. There are many reasons for voting, and elections matter. The polls are open until 7 pm local time; if you are registered to vote but do not know where your polling pace is, text WHERE to 877-877, then reply with your full home address. Your boss is required by law to allow you to vote, and there are many organizations who are working hard to get you to the polls. Get your kids involved by printing out this map and having them color each state as the returns come in. Do a little research on the electoral college in general, and find your state's electors.
GO VOTE. It is the most important thing you will do this year.