This post was originally published on September 29, 2008.
When I was in third grade, my teacher gave us two questions to prepare for debate: The first one was, “Should children have homework?” The second one was, “Should children be able to vote?” I thought that children shouldn’t have homework but that they should be allowed to vote. Since I brought the questions home to prepare for debate the following day, my mother saw them, and offered her thoughts. She said that children shouldn’t vote because they were still too easily influenced by their parents. She was pretty convincing, because I came to school with an argument about why children shouldn’t vote. Half-way through the debate and away from parental influence, I reverted to my original eight-year-old viewpoint.
I had to wait more ten years to participate in real elections. Of all the cities in which I lived, my favorite place to vote was New York City because of the old-timey lever system akin to the ones I watched my parents use. For most of my voting history, I’ve filled in bubbles next to my candidates’ names, referendums and initiatives as if I were taking multiple-choices exams.
It can be hard to get excited about voting if you think your vote doesn’t matter because it’s only one of many. It is easy to stay home (or not mail in the ballot) if you think that you’re stuck with choosing between Lousy Choice A and Lousy Choice B. I get that.
However, a couple of elections ago, a friend of mine convinced me that my civic duty was to deal with the candidates we had rather than holding myself aloof because none of the candidates fit exactly with my ideals. I also decided that I had to show up—in one way or another— to let my elected officials know what I think of the way they run my government and to help bring in other people if they don’t listen carefully enough.
As we prepare for another American presidential election, I want to encourage you to think about our candidates and do the research to find out when and if they’re telling the truth (Factcheck.org is a good, non-partisan source). Think about what is important to you. Listen to what other people say, but don’t let them tell you how to vote. Your vote belongs to you.
You will find a roundup of voting posts on Chasing Ray.