What an odd Election Day it is here. Since February, 2009, 28 out of 29 Washington State counties vote by mail, rather than in person. Like all systems, it has its plusses and minuses. Voting should be less affected by volatile weather. Last-minute revelations and ads will have less impact. One unsettling and major change is that results, especially in close races, may not be known for days – even before recounts kick in. Even those attempting to manipulate the electoral results by fraudulent means (which unfortunately is a reality) will need to switch tactics. In addition to these changes, the entire atmosphere of the day has altered.
There is a solemnity to lining up with fellow citizens to cast a ballot. As a young girl I accompanied my mother to a local public school where she mysteriously entered behind a curtain to vote. Meanwhile, I cast my vote openly on the children’s ballot in the middle of the room. I seem to remember Donald Duck versus Mickey Mouse as the candidates, though my memory could be mistaken. As befitted the times, my mother dressed up to go vote, as she might have dressed to have lunch out with my aunt. I don’t remember having discussions about specific candidates, parties, or issues but I do remember clearly getting the message that voting was an incredible privilege and responsibility. Election Day had an almost sacred feel.
Fast-forward to my kitchen table where three weeks ago I filled out three ballots – mine, my husband’s and my youngest daughter’s – and then distributed them to the correct parties for their signatures. Since we all support or oppose the same people and initiatives, this method works most efficiently for us. Majestic, however, it is not. If a five year old was watching me, I can’t imagine the same awe-inspiring aura that surrounded voting when I was a little girl.
Times change. My youthful and, sadly, naïve trust in the integrity of the voting process no longer exists. My unquestioning belief in the decency and rectitude of those running for office vanished long ago. Compared to those changes, a change in the method of voting is unimportant. And I think that voting by mail has many positive aspects. However, I can’t help regretting that where I live, a special Election Day mother-daughter outing is no longer to the polling place but rather to the mall.