ABSENTEE BALLOTS WON'T 
GET MY VOTE

   I always looked forward to Election Day. I'd drive to work, passing the American flags flying gallantly outside our community polling place, knowing I would stop on my way home to cast my crucial vote.
    The day would slide by, and since the polls would be open until 8:00, I'd arrive with plenty of time to spare. There might be a short line, and I'd bond with my fellow Americans as we waited to change the course of our county, state or country. Of course, we wouldn't say anything to each other, just in case we disagreed. It was a silent bond.
   The always delightful elderly volunteers would ask my name and check me off as a true patriot, and I would swell with pride as I took my ballot into the booth. Then I would aggressively punch or mark my candidates and then take a somewhat educated guess on some propositions.
   My duty complete, I would drop my ballot in the box, wave goodbye to the volunteers, and head home knowing that I had solidified our democracy for generations to come.
   What a glorious feeling. Unfortunately, that's all in the past, because now I vote absentee.
   I don't even remember how it happened. I must have been out of town one year, long ago, and applied for an absentee ballot. And once you get one, they keep on coming. It ruins everything.
   Apparently, you can take your blank absentee ballot to your polling place, hand it in, and vote conventionally. But no one does. It's too convenient to fill it out at home, sign the envelope, and mail it without even adding a stamp.
   More and more people are voting absentee. A couple of my children, who are in their mid 20's and early 30's, have never set foot inside a polling place. They always have voted by mail. Such a shame.
   It won't be long before there will be a voting app on your smartphone, and polling places will become obsolete. Voter turnout might improve, but voter satisfaction will take a huge hit.
   It's easy to whine about the good old days, but this is different. Voting should be personal. It should be shared by the community. It should be an event. It shouldn't be conducted at your convenience, without any fanfare.
   Absentee ballots only add to the polarization of the country. We've been at each other's throats for months now, arguing and debating everyone and everything. Today is the day everyone should come together at the community polling place, ignoring our differences in the common pursuit of democracy.
   Not me. I cast my ballot one week ago in the privacy of my living room. Those last minute radio and television advertisements, those pamphlets that keep coming in the mail, those potential November surprises that can alter an outcome---none of it mattered to me.
   But more importantly, I was isolated. I didn't wait in line. I didn't look at my fellow voters and admire them for getting out to vote. I was in my own little bubble, and I filled out the little ovals on the ballot without much of a thought as to what a wonderful democracy we live in.
   There are legitimate reasons for some people to vote absentee, but I'm not one of them. I'm here. I'm not absent. In this fractious and potentially devastating election, I'm sorry I'm not going to my polling place today to join my fellow American citizens for a rousing testament to our democracy.
   So if you didn't vote absentee, and you are indeed voting somewhere in your community, good for you. I'm jealous. When you're watching the election returns tonight, maybe it will be slightly easier for you, knowing that you participated in the process with your fellow citizens.
   As for me, I learned a lesson. I'm not voting absentee ever again, unless I'm truly absent. I know the trend is going in the opposite direction, and I think that's sad. Election Day should be a special day, and voting absentee doesn't make it very special.
   We don't need more polarization. Yes, cast your secret ballot, but at least show your fellow Americans that you're casting it. That helps.

 

 

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