I just got back from the National Guard Armory, where the City of Vermillion votes.
To me, early voting takes away the excitement of Election Day–I hold out while everyone around me is smug in their previously-cast ballot, and I walk in the polling place with a big smile on my face and show my ID and hear the ladies (it’s pretty much always ladies) call out my name down the table and mark me off the list. Then they hand me the paper ballot.
I think if we were to go to electronic voting machines, I might vote early–worried about all the troubles I hear about from across the country. There’s a comfort in the paper ballot and the heavy black pencil–a comfort in making those dark marks and taking my ballot and seeing it slide into the locked metal box.
A lot of the pleasure of Election Day is in the ceremony. As one who came of voting age in Vermont, I went through the small ceremony of registration there, taking the Freeman’s Oath, outlined here in a section of the Constitution of the State of Vermont:
§ 42. Voter’s qualifications and oaths
Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state:
You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person.
I had planned on getting my driver’s license that day, too, but Governor Dick Snelling died by his poolside that morning, and all the state offices were closed. My mother drove me to the county offices to register, and she stifled sobs as I recited the above oath.
I understand the logic behind the “motor-voter” laws that register people to vote when they apply for their drivers license, but in my mind, a certain amount of ceremony adds to the solemnity and responsibility of the occasion.
We encourage everyone to vote, but when we do that, we should also keep in mind the responsibility that goes along with the right. What I like about Vermont’s registration process is that it adds a certain gravitas to the occasion–a certain reflection on what it means to become a voting citizen.
But no matter where you grew up, if you’re eligible to vote and you haven’t already, get out there and make your voice heard.