Earning the "Right to Vote"

When I was small, one of my first memories, in school, was being able, as a kindergartener, to “vote”. There was this mockup of the inside of a voting booth, and it showed you the levers, how you pulled them down, and then, voila, with the return of the BIG lever, your vote was registered in the back a big behemoth of a machine. I remember my father letting me come in the booth with him. It was so mystical, so magical, and then, the levers were pulled, the vote counted, the machine made a satisfying clink, and the curtains whisked open. I was hooked. It was magic---my father had performed a miracle—he voted. I was too young to understand just how many other people were exercising the same right, here in Colorado and across the Country. It didn’t matter, at that age. I just understood, that as my Father, who immigrated to this country, applied for, passed the tests, and received his citizenship, my father was so very proud to vote. For him, it was very serious business, lots of soul searching because he felt his vote counted so much. He passed this belief structure on to me. I hope to pass it to my daughter.
The first time I voted, it was on those same old machines. Many of you remember them. They were massive. The magic was there, just as it is today. The thought that one vote, one legitimate vote, my voice, my chance to speak mattered, still sends chills up my back. I promised myself that I would always work to protect that privilege—the vote---for as long as I could. I try today.
When I became legally able to do so, I became an Election Judge. I got to get inside the machine, that wonderful, primitive tabulator of votes, from hundreds of citizens. New Americans, their children and their grandchildren, legally exercising the franchise of voting. I got to, with another person, read off the votes, pull the paper trail, sign the sheets, place all of it in a, what seemed to be, a huge steel box, and return it, with great pomp, to the Clerk and Recorder in Denver County. The lines for check in were horrid, but part of the seriousness of the job we were committed to doing. No one cared how long it took, we cared because we carried something so very important. We carried the vote.
Fast forward to today. The ballot, a piece of very powerful, magical paper, sits on my table, trying to lure me to take a pen, and connect those lines. Then it wants me to place it in its sleeve, seal it and return it to my County Clerk. And, I will today. There is something that is special about voting. It never changes. Candidates and media speak of the importance of one vote. Bob Beauprez speaks of his election by a slim 100+ votes.
I have been fortunate, in the last few years, to make friends in different Communities. They are immigrants---some recent, some, now, others for many years. They too speak of the many wonders of being able to vote. They have come from places where voting may mean endorsing the one candidate chosen, or they may come from democracies where you can select your choice from amongst 10 or 20 candidates. The seriousness, the contemplation of the issues and the vote, itself, is cherished.
Our elections, today, are running affairs. Just about 3 weeks, to vote and return the ballot. A million reasons can stand between that ballot and your vote. Apathy, Indifference, family issues, the feeling of being coerced---those commercials seem to leap out at you from the tv---all influence how you vote. Some of you have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. It Matters. It Matters a lot. Without your vote and the votes of your neighbors, things happen to you. Think about it. If we do not participate, or we do not follow up and participate in a larger effort, things will happen to you. We speak of voter suppression, how it creates a hierarchy of victimization. If you do not speak up with your vote, the voice becomes less, each time the voice gets silenced, it means that someone, in an official, elected position, can say “They don’t care, I can do what I want and no one will say no”.
That is simply wrong, it is horribly not right. No one, who legitimately should and can vote, should deprive herself, or himself, of his voice. Each person has value—each person, a voice. And that voice, is the voice of the vote...From the old voting behemoth to the digital screen machines in Vote Centers, to the piece of paper on my kitchen table. Our vote, our voice, our choice.
Our Founding Fathers speak of the vote. We declared ourselves independent, in part, because of the suppressed and silence of our voices. The Declaration of Independence speaks to the “Petition” to a far off King, to hear our voice. When both he and Parliament chose to ignore our voice, a Revolution began. And, a new form of Government came into being. A churning, eager, excited, child-like wonder, created by very different people, but all had a hope and dream for this newly created Country. The hope?? A voice, a voice from people….People who care, who take care and love their country, with all the individual goofiness, surprises (good and bad), creative energies that can barely be harnessed. A country that spans a Continent, young people, old people, children with dreams beginning and voices being heard.
So, my friends, as a salute to Our Founding Fathers, our Immigrant ancestors, and our fathers and mothers, get out and VOTE. Vote today, remind your neighbors to vote, remember the voices of our past… VOTE.