Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My first vote

I was 18 years old and away at college. I was voting absentee, so it must have been October. I was expecting a slip of paper, but instead, I received a tidy little package. The actual ballot was a punch card. Also in the package were a small piece of Styrofoam made specifically to fit behind the ballot and a little metal puncher (for lack of a better word).

The instructions were very clear. Place the ballot on the Styrofoam. Use the puncher to punch a hole through the ballot. Remove the ballot from the Styrofoam. Check the back of the ballot to ensure that the punched piece completely separated from the ballot.

I voted at breakfast. I don’t know why. I guess I must have thought it would be easier to mail it on my way to class, although there must have been a mail drop in the dorm. I remember trying not to spill syrup or milk or juice on the ballot. I remember the other students giggling over the whole setup. I remember wishing it was a presidential election, so it would feel more meaningful (I have since learned that elections don’t have to be presidential to be meaningful).

It seems like a lifetime ago. Since that simple punch card, I have voted on paper, on old "kerchunk" machines, and on fancy touch screen computers. I’ve walked right up to a voting booth, and I’ve waited hours in line. No matter what the circumstances, my heart pounds every time.

Go vote.

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