Opinion: What it means to vote in America

Matt Poe

I made the trek home to Columbus this past Monday to vote for the first time in my life.

The Franklin County Board of Elections lost my absentee ballot in the mail, leaving me with no choice but to make the journey home so my vote was cast on time. With nothing more than a Red Bull in hand and some sports talk radio, I scooted my sleep-deprived rear end to the polls, ready to do my civic duty.

After nearly four hours round-trip in the car and two hours sluggishly shuffling along in line, I had officially voted and made my own personal history. I dreaded most of the process because of how inconvenient it was to my personal schedule, in many ways.

It was only after I had finally propped my feet up on the coffee table back at my apartment that this thought dawned on me: I was an idiot to make such a big deal out of the voting process in this country.

This election season has been overbearing, ugly and more negative than any I can remember, in my short time on earth. At times, it seemed like the coverage and negativity was on the verge of engulfing us all, into a pit of negativity we may never emerge from. A huge sense of relief overcame me after I voted, and while it was partially due to this election coming to a close, there was another reason.

I think most of us take for granted how easy it is to vote in this country. Sure, there’s a seemingly overbearing amount of paperwork to do beforehand and yes, waiting in that line was my own mini-version of an endless hell. But all that pales in comparison to be able to say I voted and did my part.

Many people around the world are still denied the fundamental right to vote on issues or the people they elect to govern them. Even in many countries where people can vote, the election process can be heavily rigged or skewed to allow governments to put the leaders it wants in power instead of those voted by the citizens.

There will always be a portion of the population who doesn’t care about politics or simply say so because they don’t know squat about it. For our generation, this seems all too common, which is crazy with the existence of that thing called the internet. Of all the things I have asked in these columns, this is the crown jewel: Do not be one of those people.

Do not be someone who takes for granted how lucky and incredible it is to vote in this country. Do not default to blanket statements like “politics is stupid” and simply throw away your ability to make your voice heard. It’s so cheesy and cliché to say, but it’s true.

By the time most of you read this, we will have our newly-elected president. I firmly believe that if you don’t vote, you give up your right to complain about future issues or policies.

Take it from someone who loves to complain — If you do not vote, your opinion is irrelevant because you squandered your duty to help bring about whatever change you wanted. To not vote in a country that makes it as simple as filing paperwork and standing in line once every couple of years is deplorable (zinger!).

I urge you to vote in person if you can. You’ll find a collection of different people from different walks of life all being packed together like a can of sardines to take part in the democratic process. It’s a sight to see when you visit the polls for the first time: asphalt, hundreds of littered pamphlets and the protection of local law enforcement helping to keep things orderly.

Understand and embrace what a beautiful sight that is.

Matt Poe is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].