Walking down the hallways at my university yesterday, I was struck by how many students, faculty and staff wore I VOTED stickers. At least one of the local department stores was giving significant discounts for people walking in with their voting stickers. But, as I surveyed the crowds in the hallways, I didn’t think they were wearing their stickers to receive a store discount, but because of the pride they felt at having the privilege of voting.
I couldn’t help but think of the different stories behind each sticker I saw. For some, it was the first time they were old enough to vote and I imagined the nervousness and excitement of going into the voting booth for the very first time. I noticed others, closer to my age, and knew that their sticker represented decades of being committed to exercising their right to vote for candidates and issues that embodied their values and convictions. I saw young women and students of color and wondered if they understood the cost and fight of others before them that won them the privilege of voting.
Estimates of voter turnouts across the country were somewhere in the range of 70-78% of registered voters. There were periods during the 1970s and 80s when voter turnout was plummeting and pundits bemoaned the apathy of the electorate assuming that the trend downward would continue. Quite the opposite has happened. Since 1996, turnouts of registered voters have continued a strong and steady climb. Devastation of loss because of Hurricane Sandy didn’t keep people from finding ways to exercise their civic possibility. I say possibility, rather than civic duty because duty sounds like fulfilling an obligation. Perhaps there is an element of obligation, but civic possibility speaks to the notion that each vote matters, each vote has within it the potential to shape and influence society.
When Cierra plays soccer, I show up for as many practices and games as I can. I want to cheer her on and support her (though she insists I do that with silent cheers)! Every time I show up, I get anxious and my stomach churns. My fears and anxieties kick in. I want her to do her best and not fail. I want her team to win. I want her to be able to celebrate her efforts and her team’s efforts. BUT, even as I want that for her, I also want all of the players and all of the teams to win. While I can’t say that I wanted all of the candidates to be successful or all of the issues on the ballots to win, the same fear and anxieties kicked in yesterday. Every victory, every defeat represented hundreds and thousands of individuals going to the polls, standing in line, casting their ballot. It sounds a bit trite, but this morning as we assess and evaluate the results, we are all winners because of our civic possibility. Yesterday, I chatted with a dear friend who had just voted. We talked about lines, ballots and our hopes for outcomes. At the end of the conversation he noted, “Tomorrow, the candidates I voted for may have lost, the issues I supported may not have won, but I will still feel good because I had the opportunity to vote.”
On Monday, my friend Amy Jacober wrote eloquently on this blog challenging us to be people who actively live through the lens of faith rather than the lens of political causes. I resonate with her comments. I appreciate Amy’s call to be God honoring in our ‘everyday choices.’ Critically thinking about the issues of our communities, neighborhoods and nation and showing up to vote in light of the convictions we hold is one way of being people of faith. I am in awe of what happened yesterday. I VOTED!