Tuesday, October 17, 2006

First things first

Motivated by a post by the Queen of Spain (who was herself motivated by Women's Voices. Women's Vote, I wanted to encourage you* to vote this November. Toward that end, I offer you a little memory about my first time voting. (*and by "you" I mean those of you who live in the United States. Other yous I encourage to vote whenever it is that you vote wherever you live.)


My story starts in Florida. Not the Florida of hanging chads and Jeb. My Florida was more swimming in the apartment pool, ballet lessons and palmetto bugs. This was the early 70s, and as a mere 4 year old, I started kindergarten. Apparently in Miami you could enter kindergarten as long as you would be 5 by the end of the calendar year you started. My birthday cuts it close (my parents call me an Old Year baby) but my parents apparently thought it was a good idea, so into school I went. My first day was memorable, in part because I was stung by a bee on the top of my head. What I remember most about kindergarten is that we had to sleep head to foot at nap time (a kid or two had a persistent lice problem), one of my classmates was named Barbie (which bothered me because she was a brunette) and I learned to say the Pledge of Allegiance with a southern accent. ("Pledge" is one of those words that did not come up a lot at home, so my accented teacher taught me to say it "Plaaydige.")

But where was I? Oh right, my first time voting. The point of that little trip in time is that because I started school young, I left for college at the tender age of 17. So living in a new city, being "on my own" (sort of) offered new experiences of all types. When I got my first chance to vote I was excited. Probably more excited than is reasonable. Even at 18 I knew that whole "what's one vote?" line, but I was still pumped. There is a sense of possibility on election day. Even when things go really wrong later in the day, when you march into that polling place I feel that My Vote Will Count! I Will Be Heard! This Is Democracy In Action! Now all Oregonians vote by mail, but when I first voted Oregon still had voting booths and you actually had to leave your home to vote. (I was going to write "put on pants" but I am not sure if there was any such rule outlawing naked voting. If not there probably should be. How distracting.)

Oregon used to have these thick blue pens for filling in the ballot. Maybe not as traditional as New York's mechanical levers, but still fun. Big Blue Marks for my choices, plus a little on my fingers. It probably took all of 5 minutes, but I voted! I'm an adult! Woo hoo! All day I was buzzy about my "accomplishment." (Dork dork dork.)

About the "Oregonians vote by mail" issue: I wonder about people newly able to vote, about what they are missing here in Oregon. It feels so anti-climactic to vote by mail. I miss the opportunity to walk to my polling place, chat with the retirees and other poll workers. I miss slapping an "I voted!" sticker on my shirt and feeling absurdly patriotic for having done my citizen duty. But I have to admit that it is easy. Fill out the ballot at your leisure, stick it in the envelope and either toss it in the mail or drop it by the county office down the road. A University of Oregon study found that Oregon's vote by mail increased voting by people with disabilities, homemakers and voters 18 to 38. Hard to argue with success. So I can suck up the loss of the sticker. I still love to vote.


  1. I'll send you my sticker, if you like. You won't get it until like three days after the election, but it's yours if you want it. . .

  2. supersugarstar10/17/2006 1:30 PM

    yeah, i'll find you a sticker, too. maybe we can make our own?

    i'm registered here (finally!), and i can't wait for any sort of election. when we lived in CA, i took the girls with me so they could see me voting, i wanted it to be important to them, too. the mail in vote won't be as fun, but we'll still make it a *family* event.

  3. Yes, indeed. Vote, vote, vote. Early and often, as they say...

    Let your voice be heard or shut it. Thanks for the idea -- I'll probably put something up on my site, too.

  4. We should lobby to have to a sticker sent out with the ballot in the mail. I signed up to be a permanent absentee ballot voter in Cali, so as to avoid going to the polls with my kids, and I miss the sticker too. I don't honestly miss anything else about going to the polls, though. It was never a friendly experience. I think it has to do with my first voting experience taking place in New Orleans, and well, it goes from there...