I had just finished University a few months before the Bush v. Gore presidential election took place.  If you are old enough to remember, you might recall what an unmitigated disaster it was with terms bandied about the news like: hanging chads, the military vote, Florida, Katherine Harris, the foreign vote.

I was pretty politically savvy then (as much as one can be at 24 years of age) and, as I was not in school and didn't have a job, I spent all day, every day, glued to the television buzzing about what was happening in Florida.  I won't go into the politics or conspiracy theories because this is not a political blog and frankly, that election was a long time ago, but, until the judges stepped in, much of the weight of that election was hanging on the balance of the votes of a few men and women overseas.
The hanging chad
This year is the first year where I'll be mailing in my ballot from London.  I find this to be incredibly cool -- that even though I live thousands of miles away from home, my voice still matters. 

I've been spending some time going through every single candidate and prop on my ballot.  I go to websites, I look at their positions, I look at news articles about them and sometimes I watch their debates.  I weigh their value systems against my own and I eventually make a decision.  Sadly, the media has made this election about the President, but it's really about your local and state congress, city councilors and (in Texas), judges.  These are the men and women who are truly going to impact your daily lives; who, as I used to tell my students, will increase your tuition or tax your textbooks.  These offices matter. 

The office of the President is important, but the individual votes in a non-swing state are often lost.  Every other election, however, is critical.  I don't like electing judges (not all states do this, but Texas is one of them) but, as someone who used to work with men with felony convictions, a fair judge was *really* important to my work.  And you never know when you might wind up in front of a judge - and hopefully you did your homework and voted for the right person (who was elected).

The people who decide our laws -- our laws regarding same-sex marriage, gun ownership, taxes, municipal bonds, regulations on water and air quality, taxes on small businesses, university tuition -- all of these people are up for election.  And I want a say in those issues. I want someone in office advocating for my value systems. 

I was always amazed at the kids who came into my classroom whose parents had never taught them to vote.  It broke my heart that I was  the first person who had ever clued them in to how important their vote was. They had no idea that their vote could change an election.  I would show them the documentary "Last Man Standing -- Politics, Texas Style" (*highly recommend*) and how that election was won (I won't spoil it for you because it's a cliffhanger) by just a handful of votes (20 or 30 something).  A few years ago, my friend who is the mayor of San Marcos, Texas, won his seat by 41 votes. It matters.

There is a saying in Spanish: Su voto es su voz: Your vote is your voice. If you don't vote, you have lost your voice. 
10/27/2012 09:59:53 pm

Oh wow, it's a pity this isn't a political blog because I love this post and definitely want to read more of what you have to say on these issues! This is a great piece of writing. I wrote a tiny bit about my own voting experience in South Africa <a href="http://passiontounderstand.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/this-day-in-history-27-april-1994.html">here</a> (hope it's okay to link to it here).

11/6/2012 01:06:41 am

I have to say that I understand people when they are frustrated that their vote won't matter - either because they're in an overwhelmed minority or part of an overwhelming majority. (Though that's obviously not always the case. Some people are just grumpy.) The huge argument for me is that you have the RIGHT to vote, and maintaining that right is an active responsibility. If you ignore it, it might as well be taken away from you.

11/6/2012 01:09:36 am

Totally agree.


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