Yesterday I took part in early voting--it's the first time I ever did that, unless you count absentee voting, which when I did it, was a very different thing.
My first election, back in 1984, I was a resident of Virginia who was going to college in South Carolina. I had to send proof that I was enrolled in school before I could get my absentee ballot. That's why these days, when my activist friends go on and on about voter suppression and erosion of voter rights, I just shake my head in disbelief. In my state, I can mail in a ballot or vote early in any number of places. I don't have to prove why I can't show up on election day.
I prefer to vote on election day; I like the idea of participating in a national activity. I like casting my vote and then staying up as late as I can to see how my candidates did--while I still remember how I voted.
But this year, I didn't want to take any chances. I'll be in my second week at a new job, and while employers are required to give me time off to vote, I know it might take some time on election day, and I know I'd be fretting about that.
So yesterday, my spouse and I went to one of the regional libraries to vote. I was prepared to stand in line as long as it took--and I expected that it might take hours.
Happily, it did not. From start to finish, it took 17 minutes, which would be fairly normal during most election years if we voted at our polling place on election day (in 2012, we waited over an hour, and I'm still not sure why; actually, my memory is wrong--I looked up a blog post, and it was only 35 minutes).
I took a minute to reflect on the fact that in just 8 years, I've seen an African-American on the top of the ticket, and now a woman. It's momentous, even if you don't agree with their politics. I take it as a sign of the opening up of society--but I'm an optimist that way.
And I was delighted to see women throughout my ballot. And based on names, which can be misleading, I saw a variety of ethnicities too.
I was glad to have a chance to make sure I got my civic duty--and my civic joy--accomplished. As we were leaving, one of the activists who was demonstrating at the legal distance away, said "Thank you for voting."
I wanted to say, "Are you kidding? Women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years. I understand what people sacrificed so that I could have this right." But instead, I said, "Of course."
I hear a lot of worry about citizens who don't vote, but down here, we seem to be having a good turnout. We drove by the polling place later, on our way to choir practice and shoe shopping, and the line was much longer, back through the parking lot.
Could I tell which way this swing state will go? No. I saw plenty of activists of all kinds, but most of them were for local candidates.
Voting gives me hope for the future. Here we are, a nation of people so often disgusted with the way that politics works--but still we vote. I voted with a wide variety of folks: all ages and races, all patiently waiting for a chance to have our say.
Later in the day, I thought about the two times that I've voted outside of election day: my first election and this one. And in my first election, I voted for a woman too, vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.
I've been a fan of Hillary Clinton for a long time. In the early years of the Clinton presidency, I called her the smartest woman in America, and I still think she can claim that title; she knows more about public policy than just about any human, male or female. She has non-transparency traits that bother me, but I also understand why she finds it so hard to be open.
It's been a fascinating election year; the wait to find the outcome seems so very long right now--a downside to early voting.
And to see how these elections influence the future--that's a longer wait still.