I always thought the first time I voted would be memorable, one of those crucial steps in becoming an adult.
When I turned 18, I was going to be ready to fulfill my civic duty. And when the Nov. 4 deadline loomed last week, I did vote. But it was nothing like what I imagined it would be.
It is only now, after having had the experience of voting with limited knowledge on candidates, platforms and propositions, that I can understand why some people justify to themselves that they should not vote. However, I still believe that voting is an essential part of being a United States citizen and should not be so easily dismissed.
My journalism professor told my peers and I that we would always remember where we were the first time we voted. If this is true, I will always remember sitting at my desk in my dorm room with an absentee ballot, ballpoint pen and glowing computer screen, wading through the legal language of the proposition summaries in the California voter’s guide and skimming website after website searching for reputable sources that might somehow help me make an informed decision.
I never pictured myself engaging in the Cliff’s Notes version of politics, but there I was, time running out and a list of unfamiliar names next to broken arrows just waiting to be filled in.
The fact is, voting is hard. With the time crunch of classes and work and other life events, it is difficult to set aside time to read up on the water crisis or look into the past actions of a state superintendent. It is easy to say, “I’m not qualified to make these decisions” or “I just don’t have time right now” or “It’s only midterm elections. I will vote in the important ones.”
These reasons could have contributed to a midterm election with the lowest turnout rate in 70 years. Just 36.4 percent of eligible voters actually took the time to submit their ballot this year, and the voter turnout in California alone decreased by 25.5 percent, according to an article on PBS.org. I find this extremely disheartening. Sure, my voting experience wasn’t nearly as exciting and patriotic as I pictured it. Sure, I had to make some difficult choices. But if there is one thing that I learned in the process, it’s that it is all too easy to back out by saying, “My ballot doesn’t really count anyway.” Voting should not be lost in the surge of our growing to-do lists, nor should it be written off in favor of other “priorities.” It is a privilege to have a voice in what happens in our hometowns, states and country. Even midterm elections have an impact on our daily lives.
Essentially, voting isn’t glamorous. And if you want to make informed decisions, it requires a bit of time and work. However, it is an important privilege that comes with being an American citizen, and it should not be disregarded with a simple shrug of the shoulders and “I didn’t have time.”
So maybe voting wasn’t as easy or fun as I thought it would be. Maybe I did not receive the sticker that proudly proclaims, “I voted.” But I did vote. And all things considered, filling in that last arrow at my desk with an ocean view isn’t such a bad way to remember it after all.
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