Ballot Bother


I always feel such a sense of responsibility when filling in my postal ballot. Like my vote could change everything.

It weighs me down this responsibility and manifests itself by my oh-so carefully coloring in those little boxes, sticking my tongue out in concentration, making sure I don’t go over the lines.

As if to do so would spawn a chaos of hanging chad proportions.

It’s very complicated to a Brit-turned-US-citizen in her middle years, all these boxes and propositions.

In the UK, it’s very straightforward. Three parties, half a dozen boxes if you count the jokers like, and I kid you not, the Raving Monster Loony Party; one ‘x’ marks the spot and you’re done.

Here, I have to read, keep abreast, weigh the this prop from the that prop. It’s not easy, is it?

It’s hard to come into a new political system halfway through your life.

It requires a lot of research and getting up to speed. I’m sure I could close my eyes and see where my pen falls, I even know someone whose husband fills her ballot out for her, but for me, I feel I must get it right. If I don’t, I’ve failed.

The sense of burden doesn’t come from the decisions I’m making but from all the centuries of effort that went into getting me to this position in the first place; where I have the chance to vote, to speak my voice, make myself heard.

All the spilled blood, the determination, the fear, the courage of those before me weighs upon me profoundly. I just wish the politicians gave me the same impression.

So I sit next to my computer, plug in the names of the candidates, clarify points of policy with my politically-aware husband.

I agonize over the costs of the various props and compare the benefits. I try to understand the voting system.

I tell myself I learned all this when I took my citizenship test but somehow it’s all just slipped my mind.

And eventually it’s over. I’ve colored in all my boxes.

I am mightily relieved as I stamp the strangely lilac envelope. I pop it in the mail, and walk back to the house.

And wish the politicians could be more than mediocre for once.

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