Monday, November 3, 2008

A First-Time Voter

While most of the nation is gearing up to cast their ballots tomorrow, I am one of many Americans who have already cast their ballots. As a resident of Pennsylvania living outside the Commonwealth, I sent in an absentee ballot so that I could remain in Washington to see the results.

Casting my ballot was certainly not the first time that I have been involved in the political realm, as myself and many my age got involved in activism in high school. Technically, it was not even the first time I have voted (I turned 18 in January, enough time to vote in, and work the polls for, the Pennsylvania primary). But at the risk of sounding melodramatic, there was something special about voting in a presidential election; participating in an event that is only being performed for the 56th time in the history of this country. I recognize that around this time every election there are always stories written bemoaning the low-voter turnout in the United States, but as a recently enfranchised voter, I think that the point really does need to be made. At some point many voters no longer feel that voting is a significant action. It is an process that, though it concerns the common good, is all too often performed by a fraction of the population. Yet I feel as though it is not an overstatement to say that voting is a type of communion (small "c") for the American people. It is a collective action that is not merely symbolic, but real and appreciable; a ritual. It is ironic, perhaps, that the action that can effect the course of the entire society, the ultimate expression of public support or disapproval, is made in the confines of a private voting booth.

Though I acknowledge that my comments sound a little like Jimmy Stewart's filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, I do not think that they are fueled solely by naivete or unjaded optimism. I sincerely believe that voting can effect policy, and hope that the American people realize the vital role they play. When the campaign rhetoric was at its best this election, both candidates made an effort to appeal to the civic responsibility that voting fulfills. To paraphrase a different sort of Constitution, we as citizens are called to "full, conscious, and active participation" in our electoral process. The work that this nation does depends on the willingness of its citizens to participate in the democracy, and I am proud to join the ranks of the enfranchised.

Alex Pazuchanics

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