Today’s The Day   4 comments

For me, it has to be today. The worrier in me—and most of you know that’s an extremely strong part of me—has concerns about a major disaster or family emergency somehow preventing me from making it to the polls. Nevertheless: it has to be today. Of course, the procrastinator in me—and most of you know that’s an extremely strong part of me—needs every last moment to study the voter information guides and make sure I understand the nuances of the local ballot measures. But even if I were fully informed and settled weeks in advance, still it would have to be today.

I know many of you have happily voted absentee for years, and several of you have enthusiastically posted on Facebook over the past few days about your early voting, and that’s great. Whatever works best for you is what works best. But for me, there’s something essential about showing up at the polling place on Election Tuesday.

It’s probably based in my love of ritual (which most of you know is an extremely strong part of me). Is there a more sacred ritual in democracy than stepping into one’s polling place and casting one’s vote?

Do you remember the television show Northern Exposure? In its third season there was an episode called “Democracy In America” in which the little town of Cicely, Alaska chose its mayor. Chris, the local DJ, spent most of the episode waxing philosophical about the exercise of democracy, quoting Whitman, Lincoln, and (as the title suggests) DeTocqueville on the subject, and lamenting his own loss of franchise in his years as a convicted felon. On election day, Chris shows up at the town hall having shorn several inches off his trademark long hair and shaved his customary stubble, wearing a suit and tie in place of his usual casual hipster threads. He gives no explanation except to quote Luke 15:6: “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”

I’ve voted in every election since I was 18, and, truth be told, I’ll probably be unshaven and in a T-shirt as I step into the voting booth today. But it will mean as much to me as it did to “Chris In The Morning”—the chance to have my say in our governance. Of course we can do this in many other ways in between elections, but that day on which we cast a ballot is a special one. Some say it should be a holiday, but I have mixed feelings about that; I’m sympathetic to the fact that many people find it difficult to get out of work in time to reach the polls (despite the laws requiring that employers allow employees to do so), but I’m also wary of it being yet another commercialized “holiday”—you know all the big stores would jump on the opportunity for “Election Day Sales.” But more to the point, though it is special, it should also take place within our normal life. Voting is something both special and common. It is how we do what we do.

Happy Election Day!

4 responses to “Today’s The Day

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  1. Love this, Maxwell! I have recently been considering casting my vote in the mail just to feel like I have more of a say when it comes to the national level (when they start posting returns and calling elections before California polls are even closed, I kinda feel deflated and like my vote doesn’t matter), and yet I too enjoy going on THE DAY. There is something cathartic in it for me. Glad I am not the only one… Thank you my friend.

    • Thanks, Becca. I always try to pretend my vote is really important, so when I hear the reports staring to come in before I’ve even reached the polling place, I think, “well, what do they know; they haven’t counted MY vote yet!”

  2. This is beautiful! I join Becca in loving it. And I smile wide at the thought of some dear friends and loved ones along our life’s path who delighted not just in voting, but in watching Northern Exposure. Many thanks for sharing these thoughts, big brother.

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