Today is voting day for the Alabama primaries. If you haven’t yet voted, please do so; the polls are open until 7 p.m. Voting in free and open elections is what makes America great. We have the power to elect our representatives at every level of government and hold them accountable at the ballot box.
My dad was always very involved in politics, beginning as a Young Republican in Illinois. He supported state and national campaigns, which involved a few fundraising parties at our house, but what I really remember was his volunteer work at the polls.
When I was about nine, it was decided that I could spend part of the day at the polls with my dad and get my first look at democracy in action. I was so excited about this, feeling like I was on the cusp of breaking the “adult” code – that being all the words I’d overheard at the campaign parties that I had no clue what they meant. It honestly was like a second language where the words sounded like my native tongue but the meaning was entirely foreign.
That morning, however, my 1-year-old sister accidentally crushed my finger in the hinge of a door while we were playing hide-and-seek. My mother, Nurse Sandy, determined it needed medical care, so my morning at the polls was canceled. My finger was not the only thing crushed. I was devastated to not be able to observe the voting process.
I turned 18 and voted in my first election. I have voted in just about every election since then (there were one or two where I moved after voter registration had closed). When my daughter came along, I took her with me to the polls and instilled in her how important participation in democracy is. I’m proud to say that she does her research, volunteers for candidates and votes in every election from municipal to national.
Eventually, my dad moved to Georgia to be closer to my family. The day came when he couldn’t drive, so I took him where he needed to go. In election years, he would ask me time and again if I was going to pick him up to take him to vote. Of course, I said, but also told him he could vote via absentee ballot if he wanted to. That, however, was not going to happen. It was important for him to show up in person to cast his vote.
Voting is what makes us Americans. Early in our country’s history the war cry was about “taxation without representation.” It’s what we fought for.
When I think of how voting is ingrained in our DNA, what comes to mind is the brave, doomed passengers of Flight 93 on Sept. 11. When hijackers took over their plane, the passengers knew they were to be used as a weapon against the United States. They had heard the fate of the three planes that had taken off earlier. Possible targets for the terrorists aboard Flight 93 were the White House or the U.S. Capitol. The passengers didn’t know that, but they knew the terrorists were going to use the plane – and them – to attack the country they loved. So they did the most American thing possible: they voted. They voted to overpower the evil that had overtaken the plane and thwart the terrorists’ plans. To be clear: a few of the passengers could have unilaterally made that decision without consulting the others on board. But that’s not how America works. Instead, according to the friends and families of the passengers on the plane who talked to them in those fatal last minutes, they voted. They voted.
That’s what makes our country great. We vote. We vote on our representation and our elected officials know they are accountable to us. Every vote counts; your vote counts. Don’t throw it away.