I voted in my first presidential election in 2000. I was a 19 year old freshman in college and I remember being at dinner at the old Student Union Building with a friend when we first heard that Florida was being called for Al Gore. We were so excited. Then in the time that it took to get back to the dorm, we heard that the networks were taking it back and maybe it was going to be called for George Bush. And then... well, then no one really knew what was happening. After that I stayed up until nearly 3am trying to get some sort of clarity and then I woke up the next morning to learn that it would be days or weeks before we knew who our next president was going to be.
Since then I've voted in every election (including off cycle elections, though I admit, I did forget to send in my ballot for this latest primary. Whoops). I am proud of my right to vote, and believe that it is my duty as a citizen to exercise it. I don't always agree with the candidates, but I am pragmatic enough to know that one of them will be in charge and I'd like a say in picking who that person will be. Plus so often when people decide not to vote for president they just decide not to vote at all, missing the opportunity to effect change on a local level. For example, my state has a hotly contested governor's race this year (without anyone named Gregoire or Rossi on the ballot! Hallelujah!), along with several important initiatives, including granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Even if people decide not to vote for president, I do hope that they vote for these local elections and issues.
I'm also very happy to live in a state that conducts its elections through mail-in ballots (where you can even check online to make sure your ballot was received and your signature verified!). By allowing people the time to vote at home when it is convenient for them and then providing the opportunity for people to either mail ballots back (which yes, does require a stamp) or drop them off at a designated location (which does not require a stamp), Washington has done a great job with raising voter turnout. Oregon has had mail in only elections since 1998, and I believe that Oregon's turnout is over 70% now, well above the 58% turnout nationally (I'll try to find time today to located sources to back up those statistics). Sure it means that since I've only ever voted in Oregon and Washington that I don't ever get an "I voted" sticker, or have tales about standing in line for hours at a time, but I also know that there is no reason for me not to vote and I truly only have myself to blame for not getting my ballot in on time.
I already know that I'm going to spend today being fairly anxious about how the polls are going to turn out. I do my best not to talk too much politics on here because even though this is my space, I respect that others have different beliefs than I do. And I respect that thoughtful adults can come to different conclusions on various issues, as well as how they prioritize those issues when a candidate doesn't represent them perfectly. However, I also don't think it's hard to guess who I voted for. To that end, I very much hope that President Obama wins reelection tonight, and I will be spending my evening watching the election results much as I did back in 2000. However, this time instead of being a 19 year old college student trying to figure out what her life might look like and hoping for a bright future, I'm a 31 year old attorney, married with my first baby on the way, now hoping for a bright future for my child. Amazing how things change and yet have the capacity to come full circle.