By Laura Sliker |
This week I went to vote for the first time. Since I went during early voting instead of the all-important “election day,” it was surprisingly quick for a first time voter. Yes, you read that right. I’m a first time voter at 21.
I walked into my small town government center where it serves as the police station, city office and fire department. There were about 7 people standing in front of me; I watched each of them swipe their license through a scanner, hand their yellow voter card to the little old glasses-wearing ladies and be shown to makeshift booths with some flimsy cloth panels covering the sides.
I checked myself in just like they did, sat down in the “booth” and turned a slow, clunky wheel through candidate after candidate for everything from senator to school board.
Early voting was a nice surprise to me because it only takes about five minutes. Well, it only took most people five minutes. It took me more like 10. My license wouldn’t scan so the bespectacled attendance taker had to type it in, raising the little plastic card nearly up to the lenses of her glasses. Then once it linked to my voter card, there was another delay. This time it was all the workers cheering. Why, you may ask? Because apparently in my town, first time voters are a big deal.
Part of it really wasn’t my fault, I have to admit. I moved to Texas for school years ago, but only officially became a resident on October 4, 2016. Yeah, that would have left me with only four days to register in order to vote in the presidential election. I looked at my class schedule then at the Gallup polls for Texas and I shook my head, deciding it wasn’t worth skipping class to go to the DMV, get my Texas license and register to vote. My vote didn’t matter anyway, so why jump through hoops to more or less throw away a ballot?
I finally got my Texas license in 2017 and registered to vote along with it. Two birds, one stone I suppose. I didn’t really think about it much until recently and I’m not sure I really intended to.
Now, it’s 2018 and I’ve been watching my state’s representatives in government. I’ve watched our senators be two of only six people to vote against the Violence Against Women Protection Act. I’ve watched as politicians brag in attack ads about trying to separate immigrant families and turn away asylum seekers. I was forced to listen every day to injustices that I knew I couldn’t even hope to fix until I realized one thing: Just because your vote doesn’t help elect someone now doesn’t mean it won’t bring change later.
Yeah, some of my votes might not count this time. I have my sincere doubts that I managed to pick the losing candidate in every single race, but surely I didn’t pick every winner either. Maybe most of them won’t count this time. But eventually, your voice will tell people on both sides of the aisle that certain things are not acceptable. Eventually, candidates will look at the data from polls and studies and see that Americans believe in basic human rights for everyone. They will have to accept that corruption, racism, sexism, xenophobia and so many other -isms and -phobias are not what we want our elected officials to display and will not be tolerated anymore. Voting isn’t always immediate gratification. But, it can yield long-term change.
Not all change happens at once, but no change happens if we don’t lay the groundwork for a better future here in the present. Vote, not just because you could help elect your chosen candidate, but vote because your beliefs can inform the future of America whether your chosen candidate wins or loses, but only if you voice them.