I remember being really little and going with my mother to vote. We went to West Park, to the skating shelter, and she wouldn’t let me come in the booth with her. She explained that voting was private, and that in America, no one could ever make you tell who you voted for. She explained that this was one of the things that made the system work. That you had the right to a secret ballot. And then she walked across the shiny wooden floor and pulled the curtain behind her, and I remember watching her legs underneath the curtain and wishing I was a grown up lady with nice shoes who could go in one of those booths and vote.
The first few times I voted they still had booths with curtains, and those wonderful big machines where you flipped the little paddles and then pulled the big lever, like it was a slot machine or something. I loved those machines. I loved the feeling of finality when you pulled the big lever.
I’ve never understood people who don’t vote. I love everything about it. I love the old people who volunteer to run the polling places. I love seeing my neighbors. I love the formality of signing the book and getting your ballot and putting it in the envelope afterwards.
I was tempted to vote early this year. My personal get-out-the-vote effort was to get an absentee ballot for my friend Nina, who is enormously pregnant with twins, and who is no longer allowed to leave her bed. It was fun though — we had to call a friend to find out who to vote for on a couple of the more obscure judicial races. I kind of liked the group voting. I was sort of thinking it would be fun to have an absentee ballot party — where everyone could talk about their votes and which races were which and what to do about those propositions.
And then I remembered my mother’s legs underneath the curtain. Maybe it’s just the vestigal Catholic in me, but there’s something sacramental about going to the polls, about voting in public, with people who don’t agree with you. About walking across the gym floor with your golf pencil and standing next to the old ranchers and filling in your little circles. So tomorrow I’ll be at the fairgrounds, with my neighbors …. and I hope you will be too.