Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vote your heart out, America

But only vote once. Otherwise it's illegal. 

Before you stop reading, let me say that this post is not to tell you whom to vote for in this year's election. That's your decision. 

Besides, if you are reading this post, then there is a 99% chance you are a member of my family or a friend and so you probably already know whom I'm voting for anyways. I'm not very shy about that. In fact, it's reeeeally hard for me not to turn this into a partisan post but, after much deliberation, I've decided not to. Instead, let's stay positive. Voting is awesome, you guys. 

And, to make to sure I stay on task, I've enlisted the help of official NC Meets DC Voting Spokesperson, Baby Charlie.

One of the first things I did when I moved to DC was make sure I changed my voter registration. I did this in April because I wanted there to be no issues when election season rolled around. 

I suppose I can call myself a habitual voter as I make it a point to vote in every election - even in non-presidential years. I grew up in a family of voters and was excited to finally turn 18 and get to officially cast a ballot. (Although, the "kids voting" table always had crayons for coloring. I miss that.)

Despite how it may appear from this post and previous posts, I wouldn't actually call politics a passion of mine. I don't sit around debating legislation or watching hours of political pundits on 24-hour news stations. But, I try my best to stay informed on the issues. And I'm passionate about what I believe.

I remember the importance my grandfather, Papa Gene - a WWII veteran - placed on voting. He never actually said anything about it to me. And, he certainly wouldn't discuss the topic on a blog. (Mostly because he didn't quite understand the Internet and the one time I tried to explain it, I just ended up confusing myself. Seriously, what is the Internet?) 

He showed me the importance of voting through his actions. Not just that he did vote, but that he did it when he had excuses not to - far better excuses than many people today have. He was over 90 years old. His health was starting to fail. He was in a wheelchair. It was pouring down rain. It wasn't even a presidential election year.... 

But my mom drove him to the front door of the precinct, unloaded the wheelchair and he voted. 

Then he came home and gave me his "I Voted" sticker. (Because, even when their grandchild is 21 years old, that's just what grandfathers do. What grandkid doesn't love stickers?)

He voted because he felt it was his civic duty. Because he fought for a country to have that right. He did it for me and for my sister and for our futures. While he may have been lost when it comes to blogs, iPads and emails, he read the paper every day. He didn't just want to be a voter, he wanted to be an informed voter. The only kind of voter to be. 

For people who say, "Oops, I missed the registration deadline" or "I don't understand the issues" or "My voice doesn't count" or "I'm too busy" or "I was already running late," then I have this to say to you...

BLAH BLAH BLAH. Cry me a river. 

Make voting a priority. Block off your calendar, set an alarm, do whatever you need to do to get to the polls. It is important.

Since days do get busy and trains do run late, I'm a huge advocate of early voting if it's an option in your state. Now, I don't want to talk a big game and then not follow through. That's why I voted TODAY. Here's my sticker to prove it:

Fortunately, there was great crowd for the first day of early voting so it took about an hour. But I didn't mind waiting. I get that many people like the idea of ceremonially going to the precinct on the actual election day. That's cool. However, I'm the kind of person who likes to get to the airport three hours early for a flight. I just don't want to take any chances.  I view voting the same way. When I wake up on Wednesday, November 7, I want to know that I did everything I could for the candidates I support. I donated, I volunteered and - most importantly - I voted. 

You may not have money to donate or time to give. But you can go to your precinct (located conveniently in or near your neighborhood) and cast your ballot.

We will never all agree when it comes to politics. My political beliefs are drastically different than some of my best friends' and family members' beliefs. But that's OK. We can respectfully disagree. (Well, usually....)

That's why we vote in the first place. 

Perhaps you subscribe to the notion that your vote doesn't count. 

(Let's be honest, whose world wasn't shaken when - after years of "kids' voting" - you learned about the confusing electoral college and thought, "Whaaat?") 

 Your voice is heard. You are part of a collective. Your vote lets politicians know what is important to you and your fellow citizens. You have a say in the direction the country moves. 

If you don't vote, then your opinion isn't recognized. And, if there's one thing I've learned from Twitter and Facebook, it's that everyone has an opinion. 

(How I would've unsuccessfully explained Twitter to Papa Gene: "It's like, um, this thing on the Internet where you say whatever you want but only in 140 characters and you follow people but not literally and you have retweets and then there are, like, these hashtags....") 

So non-voters, don't complain. As cliche as it may sound, it's true: every vote counts. We are privileged to live in a country where citizens have the right to vote - regardless of gender, economic status, or religion. 

It is important

It does make a difference.

America, vote your heart out. 

(Put your name in now for "Charlie Thomson 2052" bumper stickers.)

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