Voting for the First Time

The 2016 Presidential Election

To be eighteen years old is to be considered an adult in legal terms, and that comes with expectations and responsibilities. Voting, once upon a time, was a privilege. Then, many years later, it was largely seen as a human right (given you were old enough to be considered responsible.) Time continued on, and voting became a responsibility. To not vote was to be unpatriotic- a truly scandalous idea. Then, finally, it was viewed as an expectation; not quite a requirement for social acceptance, but seen as a positive way to make a difference as a person (however miniscule that difference might be.) So what is it now? Privilege, human right, responsibility, or expectation? Or is it just a wearying experience in which you hold your breath, make a decision, and hope it doesn’t come back to bite you in the butt? What with how the Presidential elections went this year, I’m kind of picturing the latter.

In a poll conducted last issue, 32.4% of students said they wouldn’t vote for any of the candidates if they could. That might not seem like a lot, but it was actually the second most common choice. Honestly, I wasn’t that surprised. We, who are just now old enough to vote, are feeling very cheated of an exciting experience. Yay, we’re old enough to vote! Boo, we have not so great choices to choose from…

That’s how I feel anyway.

The voting process was not easy. I wasn’t expecting that it would be, but I didn’t expect the emotional exhaustion that went with it. Trump or Clinton, Trump or Clinton, Trump or Clinton… It went around and around my head. Actually being faced with making this decision was so different than how I’d imagined it when I was younger.

November 8th rolled around, and it was time to go vote. Standing in line for almost two hours is about as much fun as it sounds. The people behind me complained about the downsides of both the candidates the entire time, and the people in front of me choked me with the smell of cigarette smoke and particularly outlandish and loud PDA and flirting. I could practically smell the American spirit.

By the time I made it to the front of the line, the cheeriness the poll volunteers had long since worn off. They did not smile back when I offered a polite hello.  They were just as ready to go home as I was. They handed me the ballot, and as I looked it over, I simultaneously felt overwhelmed and underwhelmed. I wondered if that just made me whelmed. It really was just a bubble sheet, but there were so many important choices to make. My hands suddenly felt sweaty, and I had to reread names and passages several times over to understand just what I was supposed to do. I heard my dad speaking to a stranger behind me.

“That’s my daughter over there,” he said. “She’s voting for the first time.”

It really shouldn’t have meant much, other than he was maybe a little proud, but I felt the pressure building, and gosh dang it, the obnoxious lady who had been standing in front of me for the last couple hours had finished and was blasting 80’s rock music- and not the good kind- from her phone while she waited for her significant other to finish. I plugged my ears and tried to push through it. I read the different names of people running for Governor, and when I unplugged one of my ears to fill in a bubble, the music had stopped, and I sighed in relief.

After what seemed like another half hour, but couldn’t have been any more than a few minutes, I was done. I stuck the ballot in an envelope, sealed it, placed that envelope in a bigger envelope, sealed it, signed my name, and put it in the blue box.

My dad smiled, and we both started making our way towards the door.

“How do you feel?” he asked. I answered without even thinking.

“Like crying.”

He smiled sadly, agreed, and held the door open for me.

“Yeah, well, all we could do was vote for the lesser of two evils.”

That’s really all it was. I didn’t even try staying up to see the results that night. I was too tired, and just went to bed. The next morning, I woke up to a text of a photo shopped picture of Trump as Captain America. Underneath was written, “This is getting out of hand.” That’s when I knew Donald Trump was going to be the next President of the United States of America. I spent the next few minutes on Google, just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken, but it was true.

Oh boy.

It’s been a few days now, and I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. Donald Trump is going to be the next President. Donald Trump is presently being told the deepest darkest secrets of the United States. Donald Trump, the business man. I’m sure the reality will set in for me eventually, but it might take until January to do so.

I don’t feel particularly patriotic. I don’t feel any older, or any more mature. After voting, I didn’t hear the proud scream of an eagle, or the urge to go out and raise a couple flags in my front yard. In fact, I don’t feel different at all. If that’s what adulthood is like, then I don’t see why everyone is so ecstatic to reach it. Maybe I’m just being a little pessimistic, but this wasn’t the experience everyone had been painting it out to be. Either way, I voted, and while I’m glad that I did, it’s not something that I get particularly excited about. It wasn’t quite a privilege for me personally, but it’s definitely a human right. It kind of feels like a responsibility, or an expectation at the very least, so I’ll keep voting, and pray none of my choices come back to bite me in the butt.

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