Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Warm and Fuzzy Feelings of Election Day

I wrote this last year and thought I'd repost it for your enjoyment and encouragement. Mashuga and I took advantage of early voting on Monday. So, I'm done!


My main message for today could easily be summed up in just one word: VOTE!

My secondary message could be summed up in three: Take your children.

Hopefully you'll read farther, but if all you remember are those four words, I'll be happy.

Election days always remind me of my mother. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve walking home from school to our high school auditorium. There my mother, who was usually a stay-at-home-Mom-extraordinaire, worked year after year as an election judge. I'd walk in to find her flanked by two sweet, gray-haired grandmothers, each of them taking names and handing out ballots. I always felt spoiled on election days. My mom had fun snacks -- licorice, Wheat Thins, peanut M&Ms -- and she always shared. The other women, who always brought candy for me, were happy to see me each year. So, even from a young age, I got the sense that election day was a special day. I knew that this voting stuff was important and I felt very honored to be part of it through my mother.

My parents did many other things to help me understand the importance of being involved in government. I remember them having a meeting at our house once, I believe it was a caucus meeting. I remember them going to other meetings in the months leading up to November. There are very few years that I don't remember having at least one candidate's sign posted in our front yard.

Most importantly, my parents always voted. In 2000, when George W. Bush was running against John McCain in the primary elections, George W. Bush had already won before Utah had its Republican primary. I remember talking to my Mom that year and she confessed to me that she hadn't voted in that primary, because it had already been decided. Then she told me something that really blew me away. That was the first election she'd missed since she turned 18. That's 27 years. What a testimony to me of the importance of exercising our right to choose our elected leaders and have a voice in our government.

I know my mother voted faithfully because her parents voted faithfully. I've heard many stories about my Grandma, who died long before I was born. One of my favorite stories is one my mother tells about going to vote with her mother. She was standing in the booth when her mother leaned over and whispered, "Don't tell your Dad I voted for Kennedy." I smile every time I think of that. It seems that not only do I have a rich heritage of faithful voters, but that I come from a long line of strong women as well.

This tradition of mothers taking their daughters with them to vote seems to have had a huge impact on my family. As I got older and visited my mother each year when she was an election judge, my interest in voting and politics grew. I began to read the notices posted on the wall, trying to understand the issues that were being voted on. I listened to my parents and others as they talked about why they thought a certain candidate would be best for the job. The joyful feelings from my childhood grew to a full-fledged interest in politics, in government and a deep sense of patriotism. After years of training and being joyfully welcomed into this mysterious adult world of government participation, it is second nature to me to go to the polls, to call my representatives about issues, to research bond proposals and other initiatives. It has been a very organic process, years of covert (and possibly unintended) lessons in political science and civic responsibility.

Best of all, the warm fuzzy feelings are still there. Today I dropped my daughter off at school and walked inside with my boys to vote. Seeing the smiling, gray-haired election judges, watching people file in and out and stepping into the blue and red voting booth was incredibly nostalgic. It felt much like going home for Christmas.

I let my boys take turns using the puncher and told them what we were voting on and why I'd chosen each candidate. I explained to them about taxes and bonds and how the roads we use are kept in good repair. They listened, but I think they mostly thought that punching out chads was pretty cool. Then, we took our ballot to the election judges and we each got to choose a cool "I Voted" sticker to wear all day.

I hope my children will learn about government as we talk about taxes and mayors and presidents and take field trips to the state capitol. I hope they'll develop a love of their country and an interest in politics. What I wish most for them, though, is that election day will always remind them of their mother. I hope that stepping into a polling station will fill them with the same warmth and joy as cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

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