Every election is determined by the people who show up.” ― Larry J. Sabato, Pendulum SwingToday I got to witness a wonderful event. My 19 year old son, Sam, cast his first vote, thus entering into the democratic process our elections seek to uphold. As any mother would, I took photographs to honor this event. Sam was a bit long suffering about it all, particularly the last picture of him dropping his ballot into the ballot box. "Why must I have a mom who insists on embarrassing me publicly?" He asked. Then, as if to underscore his point, he added sardonically, "Can you hear the weariness in my voice?"
I remember when I first voted. It was 1980, I had just turned 18, I had already enlisted in the US Air Force, though I wasn't due to enter Basic Training until mid-December, it was a presidential election, I had been out as a lesbian for two years.
I remember the way it felt, waiting in line, walking up to the ballot box and pulling the curtain behind me. I felt, suddenly, the weight of the responsibility before me; I understood viscerally in a way that before that moment I had only understood academically, the importance of the act I was about to undertake, the power of my vote, the need for me to make this commitment to let my voice be heard.
The main people I voted for didn't win that year, in 1980. Indeed, it would be over a decade before the person I voted for became president of the United States. Through these past 34 years, whether my candidates or issues have won or lost, I have maintained my commitment, made myself accountable to the responsibility to vote. To my knowledge, I have never missed a presidential election and may have the same perfect attendance on the midterm elections, such as the one before us now. The few times I missed a local or state election, due to circumstances beyond my control, I remember feeling a sense of guilt; as if I had let my values down by missing out on the right and responsibility to vote.
And here I am today, passing the baton to my son. I hope that I have instilled in him the importance of his vote, how we really can change the world with our voices and values, yet, no many how many rallies we attend, if we don't vote, we have abdicated our responsibility to try to create and re-create a country where there is room at the table for all, where justice is the plumb line and not the deep pockets of political lobbyists or special interest groups, where hope is dished up daily in portions for all. I can't guarantee who or what he voted for (or who or what I voted for, for that matter) will be celebrating with victories on Tuesday night. I can only guarantee that his vote counts, his casting of the ballot remains an act of revolution, and, as he continues to carry this mantle of responsibility along with all of this, the newest generations of voters, he will indeed make a difference.
And so will you. If you have already voted, thank you. If you have had your ballot sitting on the counter for the past week or so, thinking you will get to it later, do it now. Now is the time. Today is when our voices must be heard through our vote. And remember, as this point you will need to walk it into a balloting place; it's too late to trust that it will arrive by Tuesday and we need your voice. That is one of the ways we can fulfill the 6th principle of Unitarian Universalism: the right of democratic process in our congregations, and in society at large. Help determine the outcome of the election this Tuesday: show up and vote!