I tried to vote yesterday. It didn't happen.
As a new resident of the commonwealth on Pennsylvania, I sent in my voter registration in mid-September, with the hope that I'd be street legal by the November 2nd election. I started boning up on the facts and forming Pennsylvania-based political opinions that did not include having issues with their booze-buying policies.
And every day I checked the mail. Lots of periodicals and bills, but nothing about voter registration.
Election Day got closer and closer and my opinions started to become well-formed and borderline passionate. I liked Joe Sestak- had liked him since attending a small rally behind a grocery store for him a few years ago. As for governor, I was going Democrat- but didn't feel overly strong about that.
But still, nothing in the mail.
Election Day arrived and on Facebook, braggarts and do-gooders let us all know when they voted and some, who they voted for. That's fine, but not for me. But I was worried because I hadn't received anything from the state...er, commonwealth, about being able to vote. Ma Dukes said I could just go and probably register there. This seemed doable and possible and plausible. Like with my facts that led to my opinions, I did research and found where I could vote- a place right around the corner! How conveniently awesome.
I walked in, my face itching a little bit because I needed to shave, found my district and the right folding table to go to and waited in line. Actually, for a moment I cut the line but then moved back in line. There was an old man with a gray pony-tail keeping tabs on things and I didn't want to get on his bad side. When it was my time to shine, I approached the right folding table and the middle-aged gentlemen manning the scrolls and scrolls of eligible names.
"I'm not sure if my name is on there," I said.
"Well, it's worth a shot," he said.
So I told the dude my name and he scanned the names.
"Brian?" he asked.
He kept looking and looking. I was looking too. More looking and the dude with the pony-tail kind of picked his nose. But after all the looking and nose-picking, the verdict came in.
"I don't see it," he said. "Sorry, you didn't make it."
He turned back to the ladies he was sitting at the table with and that was it. I hadn't made it. Despite being born in America, raised in America, and having moved from one part of America to another part of America and sent in my voter registration for this new section of America in what I felt was plenty of time, I was in fact, not able to vote in America. The frosty vibe in the room made me feel I wasn't even able to be in the room with these privileged folks. I looked around the room, but didn't see anything resembling a folding table where I could register then and there.
So I left.
I left feeling a little lost, a little dejected, and a little humiliated. I couldn't really see how this was possible, this revelation that "I hadn't made it." I was confused and a tad bit overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions. On one side, if I had known that I wasn't yet ready to rock in Pennsylvania, I would have voted absentee in Maine. But then again, how would I have known this, seeing as how I felt I had submitted information with more than enough time for my street legalness to move seven hours south? Yet I had taken the time to bone up on Pennsylvania races and my only knowledge regarding the elections and races in Maine came from Facebook. I don't trust anything coming from a face or a book, so that was no good.
And then there was a slight feeling of malaise- a shrug of the shoulders, a quiet "oh well," and then a moving on with my life. While I do feel terrible even admitting this, I also feel terrible about the current state of our government and current shape of our democracy. It seems like we need a shake up, that we need our democracy to take a time out, go back to the lab a bit and come back reformed, remade, and retooled in a way that better suits the current state of our country. I hate that the idea of voting for the lesser of two evils has become a common practice and the lack of teamwork exhibited by our elected officials. Whatever happened to working for something greater than yourself, something bigger than personal gains? Are we voting for politicians looking to help our country or soundbites looking to help themselves, but just happening to do this from a desk in Washington?
What exactly is going on and what are we doing about it?
Have any of these politicians done anything to make our country better?
If there isn't a politician out there speaking for me, then is there a real politician out there?
But the big question that finally came to me was this- do I have a right to question any of this if I don't even vote?
And for that question, I had a simple answer and an answer that trumped all of my concerns and questions and frustrations.
Nope, not really.
So today, I will do one thing before I do anything else (besides eating cereal, drinking coffee, watching Sportscenter, and writing this blog.)
Register to vote.
Because two years will be here before you know it.