I pulled out my Utah voter’s guide yesterday and went online to do some final research on the local candidates before heading to the polls. I tried to create a sample ballot online, to make sure that I was covered on all the local issues… and discovered that the County Clerk didn’t think that I was a registered voter. Whaaaaaat!?!
I registered to vote when I was 18 in Ohio, where I voted in two presidential elections. I registered again when I moved to Utah in 2005.
I called the Clerk’s office and spoke to a very friendly guy who confirmed that I was, in fact, a registered voter in Utah. However, my old apartment address was still listed in the system. Whaaaaaaat!?! I had filled out the required paperwork to change my address and sent it in (stamp and all) in July!
Well, they never received it and/or never processed it. I was pretty mad, to say the least. Ben was exasperated because I didn’t check my status before Election Day, and I promise that if/when I move in the future I will not make that mistake again.
The guy at the Clerk’s office was sympathetic, but obviously there was nothing he could do to make it better right away. He told me that I could go to my old precinct to vote or fill out a provisional ballot in my actual precinct. Because I wanted to vote on a bond for the new public library, I decided to take a chance with the provisional ballot.
So I went to the new elementary school down the street around 3pm and found my Place of Voting in their adorably tiny gymnasium — with no line! There were several electronic voting machines set up and a few people voting on them, but I had to stand at a familiar portable voting booth to fill out my paper provisional ballot.
In a way, I’m glad I did. It felt amazing to manually fill in that circle next to Barack Obama; I smiled to myself and felt a wave of giddiness. Even though I live in one of the most conservative parts of a very conservative state, and my vote for Obama would surely be smothered by other Utahns’ votes for McCain, I still felt connected with everyone else in the country who was filling in a circle or using a touch screen to Vote for Change.
Sure enough, I was one of the 18% in Utah County to vote for Obama instead of McCain. Many thanks to the rest of the country for choosing, in my opinion, the best candidate. I hope that my friends who preferred McCain will eventually feel the same way. (Even if you don’t, let’s just stick to being friends despite our differing opinions on politics and/or religion, okay? There are lots of other things we have in common.)
But don’t mistake me for being a straight Democratic voter, because I’m unaffiliated. I will vote for the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent who is the best candidate (or, if none are available, I’ll pick the one who’s least crazy). Thankfully, I think that my reasoning behind my political choices has improved over the years.
In 1988, I was aware of the election but I don’t remember my parents talking politics. I secretly supported Dukakis because I had a 4th grade crush on a boy whose family supported Dukakis. In 1992, my 8th grade best friend and I rooted for Perot because he was the little guy (literally and figuratively) and had heated discussions with the mayor of our little town who was also our social studies teacher — arguments based on what, I don’t quite remember. In 1996, I watched the election coverage from my host family’s television in Norway but didn’t know enough about the candidates to prefer one over the other. I felt an increased sense of patriotism because I lived outside of my country that year, and I felt that it was important as a maturing teenager to at least be aware of major political events. And it was okay for me to stay up until 3am on a school night to do so.
In 2000, I watched the presidential debates and voted for the first time. I was confused and disappointed when Bush won the election. In 2004, I voted a second time, participated in the collective groan across the nation after Bush was re-elected, and wondered what was wrong with my country.
November 4, 2008 marked the first time I’ve voted for a candidate because I truly believe in him as opposed to voting for the candidate who is Dear God Anyone But George W. Bush. I was truly grateful to at least have a choice this year between two people who can form complete sentences and pronounce difficult words like “nuclear.”
Ben and I stayed home and watched NBC’s election coverage on and off throughout the evening (broadcast HDTV is still beyond delicious, btw) and gleaned more details from CNN.com as votes continued to be tallied. When Obama surpassed 270 electoral votes and McCain conceded the election, it was a unique feeling. My candidate won the election.
Thank you, America.