Almost time to vote for president again. It’s a rite of autumn, when you can exercise your right to vote. Mark your calendars for Election Day, the first significant event after Daylight Saving Time ends. I love it that our clocks fall back and we get an extra hour of sleep the weekend before the national election. Those politicians must want to make sure we’re well rested before we take on the awesome responsibility of choosing the next president. I just have one question: Do they really think one extra hour of sleep will help?
My favorite part about voting is the secret ballot. There’s not much that’s secret about modern life anymore. Grocery stores track your shopping and send you coupons tailored to your spending habits. College and military recruiters pursue each high school student with predatory zeal, armed with more personal information about the student than even Grandma knows. The Internet has almost erased the word privacy from the dictionary. Try Googling your own name sometime — it’s amazing what the world can learn about you at the click of a button.
But in the voting booth, your privacy really is protected. You go into the booth, close that little curtain, and no one knows how you vote. You can vote a straight party ticket, you can mix it up between the Republicans, Democrats and all the rest, or you can even write in Scooby Doo if you want to. At the end of the day, your vote has as much weight as that of either President Obama or Governor Romney. Now that’s power! Kinda makes you feel like Superman, doesn’t it? This effect is heightened by the resemblance of the voting booth to the public phone booth, now a vanishing breed in our modern landscape of cell phones. Whenever I go to vote, I keep an eye out for the Man of Steel to come bursting out from behind the little red, white and blue curtain and fly off to protect “truth, justice and the American way.” Where else could he change nowadays?
I’ve been in a lot of voting booths in my time. I’m one of those “supervoters” who votes in every election that comes along. Senators, bond proposals, citizens’ initiatives, presidents — I vote for them all. I’ve colored in the circle completely, pulled the lever and even punched the infamous chad, which I’m sure I did not leave hanging. I’ve voted absentee when I was in college, and early when I was pregnant and didn’t want to risk delivering my baby in the privacy of the voting booth. I’ve voted in eight presidential elections—this one will be my ninth. My guy has won three times — a thirty-seven and a half percent success rate. That’s an “F” by any standards. So much for being a supervoter! You win some, you lose some more, I guess. I’ll keep at it, in an attempt to improve my percentage, if nothing else.
Another cool thing about voting is the “I Voted” sticker you get when you leave. Even though I don’t want to tell anyone how I voted, I definitely want to make sure everyone knows that I did indeed vote. I’ll place my sticker conspicuously on my shirt, and then wait for the inevitable question, “who did you vote for?” so I can smugly reply, “Secret ballot — I’m not going to tell you. Nanny, nanny, boo, boo.”
The sticker is a pride thing. If you have the sticker, you’re in. You’re part of the elite: the few, the proud, the voters. If you don’t have the sticker, well . . . you just don’t want to go there. You try to play it off with the old “I gave at the office” line: “Uh, yeah, I’m going to vote . . . uh . . . after work. Yeah, that’s right. I’ll get my sticker after work.” Yeah, right. It doesn’t count until you trade your voted ballot for that prized sticker.
Well here’s your chance. Enjoy your extra hour of sleep, get good and rested, take advantage of a rare moment of privacy, and be sure to collect your fashionable “I Voted” sticker on Tuesday.
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.