By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Feeling proud and teary-eyed about the right to vote

i voted sticker (JLMcAnally/Shutterstock.com)

I recently received my mail-in ballot for the Massachusetts primary election, which is quite late, on Sept. 1. (The main battle is between incumbent Senator Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III.) I posted on Facebook about receiving my ballot as follows:

"Sending in my primary ballot for Massachusetts. I still remember when I was a little boy my mother would take me to the polls to watch her vote and to spend time playing with the mock voting machines. Voting still after all these years puts an excited feeling in my heart."

More specifically, I think that from the age of six, my mom took me to the local polls at the elementary school nearby. First I went into the voting booth with her. Then I stayed around afterwards – she was a poll watcher – staring at the people on line to wait to vote. There were a number of voting machines nearby where people could practice if they wanted to. I vaguely remember moving the pretend levers (they felt like real ones) and adding up pretend vote tallies.

I wasn't sure what if any reaction I would get to my post. There turned out to be more than I expected – 55 likes, which is considerably more than my posts typically get, many of them from people sharing their own memories of participating in voting with their parents, or more recently voting with their own children.. Turns out I'm not the only one who participated in – and still remembers today – in this rite of childhood. Some of the comments:

  • "I have the same memories of going with my dad for the sacred right...and also still get that tingle..."
  • "I loved pulling the lever that opened and shut the privacy curtain when I was young enough to go into the booth with my mother."
  • "My earliest political recollection was watching the party conventions when they were televised for the first time in 1952. My dad was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and had me on street corners handing out campaign literature for various democrat candidates."
  • "When our kids were young, I dragged them to the polls and when they asked why I insisted on voting I replied people had died to protect my right to do so and that around the world, millions dreamed of having the same opportunity. Still feel the same way. And our kids have always voted."

And from Chris Dorobek, whom some blog readers will know as a long-time IT journalist and member of our community: "I always take Nick to vote with me" (his eight-year old.)

I will be corny. There are many critics of democracy today, far more than there were when communism fell 30 years ago. People ask whether democracy, with all our interest groups and the influence of money, really tends to produce the best policies – we should note though that people worried that Trump is endangering democracy are not criticizing democracy itself, but rather asking whether it will be destroyed. My view is that the idea of one person, one vote is a profound statement. Even as we are unequal in many domains, in this important one we all have the same worth. It is the connection of democracy with human worth that makes the experience of voting never get old for me.

I took a screenshot of my ballot and sent it by Wechat to a friend in China. I think I have mentioned Wechat in some earlier" posts, but guessed few would know what I was talking about; now probably many do. (This is perhaps neither here nor there, but I will be very distressed should I lose access to Wechat – why can't I in a free country make the decision myself about taking the risk the Chinese will have access to my personal data?)

My friend responded (ignore his imperfect English, "I must say that I admire you to vote for the candidate that you like." Another Chinese friend commented on my Facebook post (he has a VPN and can access Facebook), "Wish I could actually vote someday, and all the Chinese in Mainland China could."

When China doesn't allow this, they show a lack of respect for the people of China.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Aug 26, 2020 at 12:12 PM


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