I can finally breathe again. I woke up this morning at 2 AM in a panic about the election. I love politics, but hate Election Day. It’s the anticipation, the stress, and often, the disappointment that my candidate or issue doesn’t win.
Those who know me know I’m passionate about political issues, and am very liberal. And not shy about showing it. I tried last night to refrain from posting anything political on Facebook or other social media (which lasted about 5 minutes before I ran across a video I wanted to repost. But I said I was done after that). And then that lasted about an hour. I received a video from the Obama campaign late last night talking about the importance of voting. Although I wish it had been a nonpartisan video, rather than a campaign video, I posted it anyway because regardless of who you vote for, I strongly believe everyone should have the right to exercise their votes. It’s a basic American right. There are a lot of political issues that get me fired up, and a few I’d go to jail to fight for (or against). Protecting the right of all to vote falls in the latter group.
I was thinking about this on my way to work this morning. I registered to vote 2 days after my 18th birthday. I would have registered on my birthday, but the county/city offices were closed because my birthday is over the Christmas holidays. I was so excited to reach that milestone! In my first election, I voted for my mom for school board. In my first Presidential election, I was so excited to vote for Bill Clinton. Even though I was registered in Kansas and had no illusions about how much my vote would count, I supported his politics and was proud to vote to re-elect him. I registered for and cast an absentee ballot from college and was proud to be part of the important national election process. My mom heard from a local election judge later that my ballot had actually been rejected because my signature no longer matched my registration. I was devastated to find out I’d been disenfranchised.
In 2000, I was a recent college grad and had moved to the Kansas City area. I registered to vote that summer not long after moving. A few months later, I moved to a new house but it was too late to change my voter registration. Unfortunately, I did update my driver’s license. On Election Day, I showed up at the polling place tied to my registration, and was turned away because it wasn’t the polling place for my “current” address. I went to the updated polling place, and was turned away because I was registered in another precinct. I ended up being sent to the county building to cast a provisional ballot. In all, I stood in line for almost 4 hours that night to vote. And then John Ashcroft fought to throw out my ballot, along with 100s of others, because we voted after the 7 PM closing time for the polls. Nevermind that we had been in line for several hours at that point. Once again, I felt cheated by the system.
In 2008 I was here, in Colorado. I worked hard for President Obama…knocking on doors, making calls, doing data entry, registering voters, and finally, working as a poll watcher on Election Day. I can safely say I have never worked so hard to get someone else hired for a job. On Election Night, I walked into my neighborhood office to return supplies from the day’s work and was sitting in a quiet office with only a couple of local organizers when the news came down that Obama won Ohio. We all looked at each other in complete and utter disbelief. I walked out of the office, got in my car, and headed straight for the State Dem’s Election Night party. Within a couple of hours, the room was packed. When the west coast states were announced and put Obama over the 270 threshold, the noise was deafening. When I got home that night, I sat in the dark watching CNN and crying with joy as the news finally sank in. After living through complete disappointment in 2000 and 2004, I finally had a winning candidate.
Today, I woke up feeling sick. All day I felt nauseous and wished I either had a crystal ball, or could freeze time and stay hopeful just a little longer. I kept thinking about how half the country tonight would be disappointed, and hoping that I wasn’t in that group. I had the math down cold. I knew which combinations of swing states Obama needed to pick up to win. And I watched swing state after swing state stall. And grew more and more nervous. And then New Hampshire was called. And Wisconsin. And Ohio. And it was over. I’m sitting here waiting for President Obama to speak and thinking about where I’ve been at this point in previous elections and thinking about that part of the country that’s going to bed tonight disappointed. I fundamentally disagree with about half of the country on where we should go as a nation, and how we should get there. And tonight I’m happy and excited that my candidate (and in several instances, my issues) won. And while we may disagree more often than we agree, I will always respect your right to vote, and will fight to protect that right even if I don’t agree with how you use it.