When I think about my most memorable voting experience, it is not my participation in this year’s historical election or even the first time I voted, it was my experience volunteering at the polls.
During the 2005 Special Election I spent a lot of time volunteering with Planned Parenthood to help in the fight against what was at the time proposition 73 (it was proposition 4 on this year’s ballot). After being so invested in the election, I wanted to feel like I was part of the voting process, but since I was only 16 years old I was not able to vote. So instead of voting, I decided to volunteer as a poll worker.
The morning of the election I woke up at 6:00 am and returned home that night around 10:00 pm. What felt like one of the longest days of my life also turned out to be one of the most influential. I could not help but notice how many people made comments about the electronic machines they fed their ballots into. Remarks like, “Oh is this a shredder?” or “Is this here so the machine can decide how I voted instead of reading my ballot?” were very prominent throughout the day.
The disillusionment with the voting process and democracy in America was truly scary and sad. It proved to me how negatively the 2004 election results affected peoples’ belief in America’s democracy. I myself was pretty thrown off by the remarks; I understood that the 2004 election was fishier than the entire Pacific Ocean, but I did not understand why people were so untrustworthy of the voting machines themselves, until I watched HBO’s Hacking Democracy.
Within a few short hours, I went from a young, hopeful American to an embittered, disgusted American, a road that I feel many people took in the last 8 years. The only lingering sense of optimism I had came from the defeat over proposition 73; my efforts had made a difference and had paid off. So, not quite sure how to feel, I decided that hating the President and middle America was the answer, along with figuring out what country I would move to after college.
Now, as of November 4, 2008, I no longer have to hate my President to answer my unresolved questions, and I no longer have to decide which country to move to (which was proving really difficult). For the first time since I was 9 years old, I am happy to be American. President Barack Obama’s term will only be the second time in my life that I have not had a Bush as my President, and this next couple of months could not go by faster.
Barack Obama has somehow managed to bring hope to the millions of discouraged Americans who turned their back on American politics years ago, and no words good explain how great it makes me feel. I was really concerned that McCain winning this election would not only leave the current voter population even more disillusioned, but that the newer generation of voters, my generation, would be disillusioned early on in our voting experiences.
In light of this week’s events, all I can really say, is it feels good to be back; I forgot how nice it felt to be patriotic. It is great to be reminded that I actually do live in a democracy (which also means that Proposition 8 won’t be around for long).