On Election Day

For as long as I can remember, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even numbered years has been a significant day in my life, since long before I was ever able to vote myself.

As a very small girl, it was the day I got to take a nap so that I could stay up late and attend my local county's Democratic Party election night party with my family (my father was an elected member of the County Council).  Music, balloons, fancy snacks and lots of energy ... it all made a big impression on this little girl.

I have wonderful memories, involving hot chocolate and warm mittens on cold mornings, of standing outside our local polling place with my mother, handing out elections materials to voters while being sure to stay the required 250 feet from the entrance of the building.  You had to be there I guess but my Mom made it lots of fun.

I even remember going into the poll with my mom, standing inside the curtained voting booth and watching her carefully make all of her selections by pulling the appropriate levers.  In the end, she'd sometimes let me pull the big lever with her to record her vote.

1992 was my first Presidential election at the age of 20.  I was home from college and voted the same way, in one of the same old fashioned voting booths and got to pull my own lever.  That was the only time really, because I think every election since then I've filled in little scantron circles on a paper ballot that is eventually read by a computer.

In 1992 I was also a poll watcher for the Democratic Party! This meant that I hung out at the poll all day, making sure that the poll workers were doing what they were supposed to do.  It was funny really because my next door neighbor, Mrs. Boyd, was in charge.  At the end of the evening when they tallied all the votes, I ran down the hall to the phone booth--this was before cell phones after all--to call the results in to party headquarters.  I had to run down the hall so I could beat the Republican Party poll watcher to the phone.  Oh the drama.

That was probably my last truly partisan election day.  A few years later I started my job as City Elections Officer, which added a different flair to election days in my life.  Now of course, I don't have any official roles other than that of voter and concerned citizen, but it's still an important day in my life.

We can take voting for granted.  Yet we never should.  Women, after all, did not get the right to vote in the U.S. until 1920, after a long hard-fought campaign of nonviolent resistance. Think about that--and thank them--the next time you vote, whether you are a man or a woman.  We must also never forget the long struggle of people of color to vote in this country as well, from the 15th Amendment to Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights movement.

In this era of corporate money, incessant campaigning and the proverbial sound byte, we can lose sight of the amazing fact that we the people, come together to decide how we live together and who will make important decisions on our behalf for the next four years.  We can lose sight that what is at stake is not my interests or preferences, but the common good.  This is an incredible right that we should not take for granted, and one which comes with great responsibility.

So, on this Election Day, if you have not already done so, please vote.

And please join me in this Election Day Prayer.

God of all nations and peoples, be with us on this Election Day and always.  Guide our citizens as they exercise their right to vote.  Inspire them to use their power and responsibility for the common good.  Comfort those who feel that their voice is not heard, especially those on the margins of society.  Heal the divisions in our country and help us to remember that we are all your children, united in our common humanity.  May we live together respectfully and may those who are elected today govern in ways that protect all life, honor human dignity, and engender peace.

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