I am the only member of my family who hasn’t voted yet. My wife handed in her absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago. My daughter mailed hers from New York at about the same time. My brother and his wife live in Maryland, where they were able to take advantage of early voting. Same for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Massachusetts. All the nieces and nephews have gotten theirs in, too.
I am waiting to vote in person at our local polling place tomorrow afternoon. The reason has a bit to do with tradition — I’ve done it this way for every presidential election since I was 18 years old. I also want to see first-hand what the experience is like this year in a country exhausted from battling both a pandemic and a political atmosphere worse than ever.
But even more importantly, it’s the only way I can be absolutely sure my vote will be counted.
Living in a state run by Republicans, I’m not confident that every absentee ballot — whether delivered by mail or in person — will actually be counted. My wife and daughter were able to track their ballots and have been notified that they’ve both been received, but that’s not the same as accepted and processed. I’m not saying they won’t be, but once I walk into the voting booth tomorrow, fill out my ballot for Joe Biden and the rest of the blue team, and drop it in the box, that’s as close as I can get to a guarantee it’ll be counted. At that point, I can’t be disqualified because my signature doesn’t match or some other voter suppression nonsense.
Fortunately, the weather forecast for Tuesday is good. And since we live in a district that is overwhelmingly white, I don’t expect the lines to be so long that I’m waiting for hours, as I’m sure too many in the city of St. Louis and similar places around the nation will. But I’ll be there for as long as it takes, with a mask on my face, earbuds in my ears, an extra battery for my iPhone, and a lawn chair.
Why am I so adamant about this? Because I know one thing for certain: the only way to achieve political change in the US is to vote.
If you don’t vote, all of those anti-Trump posts and replies you put on Facebook don’t matter, all those retweets on Twitter are irrelevant, all the pussy hats you wore at protests mean nothing. Sitting in your living room yelling at cable news while growing angrier and more frustrated and flabbergasted about the latest outrage from Trump or his Republican boot-lickers will not modify a single policy if you don’t put people into office who can effect change from within.
We all have friends who say they don’t vote because a single person doesn’t matter or because “we’re going to win this anyway” (how did that work out in 2016?). Those sentiments don’t stop them from clicking on every “like” button on social media. Or filling out a survey after eating at some restaurant because doing so will give them $2 off a coffee on their next visit. Or painting their faces with the colors of their favorite sports teams.
None of those expressions of your opinion has any real-world impact. Voting does. That’s true even if you’re a blue dot surrounded by a sea of red and have no chance of flipping anything, because math matters.
This election will likely have a higher turnout — from both parties — but it will be interesting to see how many millennials and others in what I call The Connected Generation (because they’re online and on their phones more hours per day than any other demographic) actually cast ballots. We know that older Americans vote, but their children and grandchildren don’t. Perhaps the Parkland High School survivors had some influence, although (sadly) they haven’t been heard from much lately. Perhaps women are seizing the moment in the wake of #MeToo and the derogatory remarks spewed by the Misogynist-In-Chief. Perhaps people of color have been so disgusted by the racist emanations from the White House and too many GOP candidates and media loudmouths.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But it all means nothing if we don’t vote.
It’s the only way The Resistance can do more than send a message, but instead put in place elected officials who can execute that message — or block the other side from steamrolling its agenda through. If Biden wins in a blue tidal wave, it’s possible the Democrats will win a majority in the Senate to go with their domination of the House. Perhaps they’ll begin to lessen the number of state legislatures and governorships that are deep red, too.
Accomplishing any of those will not cure all our ills, but it will be a good start in the right direction.
Meanwhile, like most of America, I’ll be home tomorrow evening, nervously watching extended election coverage from multiple outlets — and waiting for good news.