Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Tale Of A First-Time Voter

I remember going into a voting booth once with my mother when I was very small, but I don't remember much about it except that I couldn't understand what on earth my mother was doing. So when I went to vote today, I wasn't sure what to expect.

I had to go home last night in order to vote today in my district this morning. The school where the voting was was on the way to the train, so I showed up dragging a suitcase with one hand and clutching the voting card I got in the mail with the other. In the parking lot, a man who lives on my block winked at me, raised a brow, and said, "Running away from home?" I grinned and asked him where the voting was.

When I got inside, two other people from my block (which is a very small block) were there, so we had a nice representation. It turned out I didn't even need the voting card, I just needed to tell them my name and what street I lived on. And then I had to wait.

I watched as other people went into the booths, but still had no idea what the inside would look like. When I was next, an older lady who worked there starting telling me about two policies in my town we were voting for. I think I looked a little confused because I sort of just nodded. She glanced me over and then asked kindly, "Is this your first time voting?"

Yes, I nodded.

"I'll show you what to do."

She came with me into the booth and instructed me to pull this big red lever in order to close the curtain. Then she left, adding I should ask if I needed any help.

And then I was alone.

I stared at the little switches on the board there - I don't even know what it's actually called - and was incredibly confused at why Obama and McCain were listed so many times. I had imagined there to be just two places to vote for President - one for McCain, one for Obama. I didn't know under which line I should vote, so I picked one using an educated guess - but a guess, all the same.

A lot of the other categories I skipped. I had no clue who anyone was, anyway. There were only a few with names I actually recognized.

And then I was done. Like I had been instructed, I pulled the big red lever again and the curtain opened, sort of like in The Wizard of Oz.

The older woman smiled at me.

"So you've voted for the first time - kind of exciting, isn't it?"

I supposed so. I almost shrugged but decided to be kinder and gave her a smile instead.

"Yeah, thanks."

And then I left and went to the train.

And next time, I will no longer be a first-time voter.


LittleBirdies said...

It's always kind of exciting the first time. I remember it being an election year when I was in 12th grade. Some of the girls in my class were already 18 and got to vote, while most of us wouldn't be 18 until after elections. We all thought it was neat that they could vote.

Josh M. said...

and was incredibly confused at why Obama and McCain were listed so many times. I had imagined there to be just two places to vote for President

Sometimes small parties won't run their own candidates for a given race, but will throw their support behind one of the major parties' candidates. In NY, for example, the Conservative and Independence parties supported McCain and the Working Families party supported Obama. A party that gets a certain percentage of the vote is entitled to certain privileges in future elections, so that voting on one of the minor parties' lines has that result, but it doesn't have an impact on the vote tally.