Why I’m Not Taking My Right To Vote For Granted

Voting boothsDuring election season, I’m reminded of a popular Filipino joke from the early 1980s.

“There was a Japanese man, an American and a Filipino in a bar. The Japanese man said: our voting system is so advanced that we know within hours who won an election. The American said: the American system is so advanced that we know within minutes who won the election. The Filipino said: here in the Philippines, we know a week ahead of time who won the election.”

And so it was in the Philippines in the period after President Marcos lifted martial law and the country was supposedly transitioning to a democracy. Even I, a young teenager, knew that the voting was tainted, the outcome known in advance.

Fast forward to 1984. I became an American citizen when I turned 18 and that summer, I was a volunteer at the Democratic National Convention. I watched the Rev. Jesse Jackson give his famous rainbow coalition speech. I still remember Sen. Ted Kennedy’s fiery speech to a hall full of hard-core Democrats. And I was there when Geraldine Ferraro accepted her nomination for Vice President as women and men wept in the audience.

I remember being so proud to vote that November, even though Mondale and Ferraro lost the election. Since then, I’ve viewed voting as a right, an obligation and an honor.  Although I’ve missed voting in a few primaries and a couple mid-term elections, I’ve never missed voting in a Presidential election.

I think about the millions of men and women around the world who are disenfranchised and don’t have any say in how their countries are run. I think about the millions of Americans who willingly disenfranchise themselves by not voting.

Post it note reminder to voteThe news media says this year’s election is “the most important election in a generation.” Bah. Every election is historic. Why is this election more or less important than 2008, or 1980 or 1992?

Until recently, I was one of Virginia’s undecided voters. But I will never be a non-voter.

PLEASE VOTE AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS, CO-WORKERS AND FAMILY TO VOTE.