November 9, 2012

Writer romanticizes voting despite facing animosity

CHICKASHA — I remember the last time President Obama was elected into office. I was a senior in high school. I wasn't old enough to vote, but I knew this was a magical time in America's history. Not only did America vote in a black president, but voters just a little older than myself were extremely  involved. I remember the three words that gave me goose bumps, "Yes we can."

This past February I registered to vote at an event on USAO's campus. Delighted to fill out my name, address, and political party - I couldn't wait for November to roll around. I wasn't sure what address to give, so I gave my permanent mailing address in Tulsa. After several months of debates, political ads, and lots and lots of campaign talk, October finally got here.

For some odd reason, I never received a voter registration card in the mail. I checked online to make sure my registration form had gone through, and it appeared it had. Since the election is always on a Tuesday, I knew driving to Tulsa wouldn't be a suitable option. So I did some voting research. The form was really simple and easy to follow.

After more research, I was under the impression that I had to apply for an absentee ballot no later than the Saturday before the election. I printed off a form, filled it out and faxed it the Wednesday before the election. I called the Tulsa Election Board shortly after to confirm my request arrived. Unfortunately, the woman that I talked to was unsure how to check if my absentee ballot application was received. She was set on the idea that she didn't even have to ability to check. She advised that I just wait for my ballot to come to my Chickasha address any day. Hesitant, I agreed to check my mail every day.

To my disappointment, my ballot never arrived. I was confused, and couldn't get any answers. Did I not apply soon enough? Did my fax not go through? Should I have kept calling the Tulsa Election Board office until they knew for sure?

The last question was the toughest one of all. Was I going to miss out on voting in my first election?

A sad truth, I had to accept that with three hours of morning classes and about 10 hours of work ahead of me, it just wasn't possible. After being at work about an hour someone asked if I voted. Almost embarrassed, I explained my situation. After getting some work done, and a very short amount of deliberation I decided I was going to travel to Tulsa and cast my first vote.

Filled with adrenaline and anticipation, I filled up the gas tank in my jeep, put on one of my favorite albums and set out on my little adventure. I waited about an hour into my journey to let my family in on it. Knowing that they'd think I was slightly crazy for traveling so far to vote as a Democrat in a Republican-driven state, I'm sure they'd see the romanticism once I arrived.

I drove straight to the church that is in my parent's neighborhood. To make the experience even more epic, my father got to cast his vote at the same time. Jokingly he said, "You could have just saved your gas money and I would have not voted. Our votes will counteract one another." I'm glad we can joke around, and not get offended by one another's opposing political views, but I was determined not to miss this.

I was nervous walking up. I slowly handed my license to the smiling elderly woman, marking people's names off a heavy stack of papers. "Is this your first time voting?" the woman asked. "Guilty," I answered, "How could you tell?" She smiled back at me, "You seem really excited to vote," she responded. "We've seen a lot of first-time voters like you today."

As I walked back to my car I got a little choked up. How awesome is it that we have the ability to cast our personal vote toward who runs our country.

Sure, maybe the person you voted for and supported all these months didn't win. Maybe you're unsure of how the future will look. That's okay. It's okay to be disappointed, it's okay to be unsure. What's important is to appreciate the power that we as citizens have, and what a fantastic country we have the pleasure to live in.

I drove over 338 miles to cast my vote because I not only believe in our president, but I believe in our country. It's mind-boggling to think people don't exercise their right to vote, and take that for granted.

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