For as far back as I can remember, the night before Election Day, my father dragged my older brother and me to the local civic and recreation center to set up polling booths. The shaky aluminum legs always found a way to wiggle out of the small, circular coves of the textured blue table top. As if twelve isn’t an awkward age already, imagine a gawky pre-teen trying to put a table together that repeatedly falls apart, juggling two legs like wands while the other two legs lean against the wall, and all eventually end up on the floor.
Those damned plastic polling booths were the bane of my childhood.
You see, my parents believed in fulfilling our civic duty as responsible American citizens. My father is an election judge for our district and has been for many years, thus my “volunteering” in elections. People throughout my hometown recognized me because of the annual presence of my frown at the polls. I somehow figured if I groaned enough, I could get out of helping. It never worked.
In 2008, just weeks before the McCain-Obama presidential election, I turned that magical number – 18. For the first time ever I was excited to visit the polls, and this time as a voter. Even though my father was the election judge and all of the volunteers knew me (and my frown), they requested my ID. I felt so adult, so empowered, so American. Four years later I am voting in my second presidential election.
Although absentee voting does not have the same rush as actually visiting a polling place, I still experienced that sense of empowerment in guiding the future of my hometown government. I must admit, despite my frustration and irritation in setting up all those polling booths throughout my childhood, giving back and participating in a democratic society is one my most rewarding experiences.