2020 is the year that keeps on giving. Rancorous discussions of when the new decade *actually* begins, how to protect the integrity of your documents by not abbreviating the date lest a scammer invalidates the year it was signed, and some other stuff. In the swirling mist that is the shared American zeitgeist, we also get to elect a President.
The President we currently have is very bad. Both as a person and at his job. The worst, some may say. For over a year now, the people have been vying for the one job that is guaranteed “in these uncertain times”(even if you are impeached). There were at one point, believe it or not, 24 different politicians running to be the one person we Democrats nominate to take down “he who will not build any name recognition from my writing.” After 18 long months of canvassing, phonebanking, primary-ing, and tweeting, we’ve reached the final count down. Early voting has begun throughout the country. Allegiances are being solidified. The voices are shouting into the political wilderness. The air is electric with anticipation and aerosol SARS-CoV-2 particles. Why do so many feel uninspired to vote?
There’s no easy answer. It’s voter suppression, general apathy inspired by historic instances of voter suppression, and — most importantly — it’s a pandamndemic. I suppose the answer is easy, but it sure is not pretty.
I have a long voter story. My grandmother was among the first Black people to vote in my town after decades of disenfranchisement.
My parents took me with them to vote. I coveted their “I Voted” stickers and wished for the day I could stand in a little booth and press buttons and have it reported on the news. During the 2004 General Election, I encouraged my fellow 5th Graders to vote during Nickelodeon’s Kids Pick The President and experienced much chagrin when channel 50 announced John Kerry had won the kids’ vote but George W. Bush clinched the grown ups. The rockin’ rad, Warhol-esque “Hope” and “Change” graphics of 2008 inspired me to pursue advertising and become a communications scholar. In 2012, I mirthfully caravan-ed to the White House to celebrate Obama’s second term. Four short years later, I covered election night on a social media listening team at Clemson University. I quietly returned home at 10pm to have a glass of wine and go to bed only to wake up to the smell of the Blue Ridge wildfires and the news “he” was President-Elect. My deputy digital organizing director prowess in the great-ish state of South Carolina was partly responsible for Joe Biden’s overwhelming victory that catapulted him to where we are today. Now I’ve taken my talents to a progressive org and spend all my time encouraging people to vote.
Even with a very long paragraph to prove to my readers that I am in fact a voter, I was a little weary to cast my ballot. This year I pressed my way to vote out of sheer obligation.
When I arrived at the site of my civic duty, I was not surprised to see a line around the block. I was pleased that 99% of folks there were not only wearing masks, but wearing them correctly (only 4 visible noses!). I had to be my own social distancing captain, getting creative with diagonals and natural barriers but nothing too far out of the new ordinary. Entering the booth was pretty much the same. Having used the new voting machines in the primary and being a digital native, the task wasn’t too taxing. The pollworkers did give me a cotton swab to facilitate contact-less voting and I will say it was a delightful experience I would love to have in all future electoral activities. My cotton tip touched the “Democrat” straight-party button per usual. Then something shook.
Seeing “President and Vice President: Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris” on that screen roused a swell of short but intense emotions. At once, all the efforts across the country flashed before me like a Fellini moment. It was like backing up from a puzzle after hours of matching pieces and slots. The future liberals want did not seem so far-fetched. Better was not only possible but laid out in front of me on a high-readability matte tech screen. I’m also a Howard University graduate and current grad student so when one of us does good, we all do! After basking in this moment, I snapped back into the reality of being in a crowded space and proceeded to verify my other selections. The magic struck once again when I got to confirm I was indeed casting my ballot for Jaime Harrison, the young hopeful poised to unseat violent, can’t-stand-on-their-word Lindsay Graham. Voting for Jaime felt like the best type of nepotism —someone both close to you and great at what they do. I tip-tapped through my other choices still a little stunned by the unexpected surge of passion that gripped me in the booth. This was underscored by the never-ending joy of getting my “I Voted” sticker.
Probably the best feeling in the voting process was my actual peers and friends reaching out to me with their South Carolina voting questions and plans. It became a community process. Everything really is better with friends.
I’m one of those crab-apple, wonk-come-lately voters who doesn’t believe the experience needs to be exhilarating. If anything, it should be so aggressively normal like fueling your vehicle. Something about the weight of the experience of waiting in a line masked, social distancing, and finally punching the ticket using with my cotton swab was surprisingly unreal. Voting is in fact unnecessarily hard. Voting is not sexy. Voting requires extracurricular work and the potential of social shaming if you are not in-the-know. Voting is also incredibly powerful when done en masse and with community in mind. So check your registration and make your plans to vote — literally everything from when you’re going to what you’re going to wear. It makes an arduous task that much easier and hopefully you’ll feel something too.