What's on the age-enda - Getting out the vote

Weren't you pleased to get your mail today, nothing but Christmas catalogues and pleas from one or two charities? Not a political message in the stack.

My poor knuckles are down to the bone, scraped and torn in my efforts to remove much too much mail in much too small a box.

I had letters from Bill Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barak Obama, urges from California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and warm greetings from Maria Cantwell and Jim McDermott and John Kerry and 43rd District candidate Jamie Pedersen and several senators and representatives whose names I didn't even recognize, as well as hearing from a few of their mothers.

There were days when I didn't have the strength to carry the mail upstairs.

How many old forests were sacrificed for this election? What letter carriers have permanent back injuries from delivering the mail? What recycle bins have reached their capacity and overflowed?

I think the day after election should be designated No Mail Day in honor of those who delivered and received the mountains of exhortations they have survived.

A medal of honor

That, however, is behind us now. What is still on my mind is voting.

Do you remember the first time you voted? I, at 21, went with my mother to our polling place as it was in olden times. I was so pleased we could walk there because the whole neighborhood would recognize me as a "voter," an adult voter at that.

On my jacket I stuck the "I have voted" sticker I was given as we exited as though it were the Medal of Honor.

Do 18-year-olds have that same sense of doing something very special when it comes to voting today? Can it be achieved with an absentee ballot?

You decide one night when you've nothing else to do to fill out your ballot. You've studied the voter's guide and listened and read until you knew as much as you'd ever know about the issues. So let's get the ballot out of the way. You put it in the mail, and it's done.

I think there is more to voting than that. There really is something different about making an effort to get to the polls before you go to work or before the polls close in the evening, about finding your proper polling place, showing ID and your registration card and then signing in.

You have shown to the world that you are real and you are voting.

Exercising the right to vote

When I arrived at my polling place to vote, I looked around and realized several of my neighbors had walked over and were in-the-flesh voters, too.

Mothers were there; their children were having a firsthand civics lesson. Several other neighbors were working at the long tables when I went to sign in, and one worker was supervising the voting machine for those who wanted to vote the newfangled way. (It works well.)

The atmosphere in the room was friendly and, at the same time, serious.

It occurred to me that there were similar places just like this - schools, garages, libraries and such - all over the country, where people had gathered to exercise the right that has served us well since the Bill of Rights was written.

I can see how absentee ballots are easier than traipsing around to a polling place on a rainy day. Certainly, they are a godsend for people who are housebound or who are out of town.

It just seems to me that we lose part of the "united" in the United States when we all sit isolated in our own corners deciding our collective fate.

Roberta Cole can be reached at editor@capitolhilltimes.com or 461-1308.[[In-content Ad]]