My first memories of an election were walking with my parents from home to our local elementary school to vote in the 1968 Presidential election. Back then, people could still electioneer right up to the polling place doors. Yard signs for candidates at every level lined the walkway and campaign volunteers made their last pitch, handing out one more brochure as you ran the gauntlet. My parents never missed an election, and this would prove to be one of the closest in U.S. history.
I remember that as we stood in line, a woman showed me a demonstration of how a voting booth worked. By flipping a series of levers, your choices were made. When you were finished, you pulled a big lever that recorded your vote and at the same time, opened the curtains to what momentarily had been your private space alone to help decide our community’s and nation’s future.
That night, we went home to watch the returns, staying up late as Walter Cronkite gave us the latest numbers from across the country. I was hooked. I would accompany my parents each election until I myself could vote. I have yet to miss a single election – primary or general.
As I got older, I came to appreciate just how sacred this fundamental right and duty was to the working of a civil society based on the rule of law. I also came to learn how for millions of fellow citizens over the history of our great nation, it has been a right often and systematically denied.
My faith in the power of the vote is complete. In the end, I believe it is the ultimate way for a society to peacefully determine its direction and future. But it only works when it is truly free and unfettered. The more of us who participate, I believe, the better the collective decision.
The author’s son, Samuel Martin casts his first vote in the spring of 2012.
I have an unshakeable faith in our system. In democracy itself. The right of the people to decide. After all the promises are made, the last television ad has run, and the final speeches given, each of us gets our say in the privacy of a voting booth. Whoever wins, the people have spoken.
As my own children have grown up, my wife and I have taken them with us to vote every election day. Our two oldest are now voters themselves. During the recent primary, my oldest son, Michael, realized that he had missed the opportunity to get an absentee ballot in time to vote. Undeterred, he jumped in the car and drove home from Iowa to cast his ballot. I could not be prouder.
On Tuesday, Nov. 6, my wife, my daughter, and I will walk over to our local library and stand in line with friends and neighbors to exercise our right. While the levers and curtains are gone, I will take my ballot and walk into that private space and make my voice heard. We will then go home, turn on the television, and watch the collective wisdom of we the people.
Our nation will continue to endure as the next chapter in self-governance is written.
My faith in the power of
the vote is complete. In
the end, I believe it is the
ultimate way for a society
to peacefully determine
its direction and future.