Casting My Vote (All Day)August 06, 2014
I voted yesterday.
That's not unusual. I am nearly religious about voting, showing up anytime the voting booths are open! But yesterday brought a couple of new voting experiences for me. It marked the first time I voted since moving from Virginia back to Missouri. Voting seemed a bit weird because in Virginia I always had a good friend who volunteered as a poll worker. I missed seeing him and joking with him as he asked questions to verify my identity.
My son, who always goes with me when I vote, apparently missed seeing my friend as well. Last November, my son (then not even two years old) ran down the line of voters and gave Mike a big bear hug. This time he hugged no one, which is probably good since he didn't know anyone there!
Yesterday brought an even bigger change for me as a voter. This was the first time in my 15 years of voting that I walked into a church building to vote in a civil election. My precinct was located in a church's event center that's not actually attached to the church's sanctuary and main building - and did not include many obvious religious messages or symbols - but it still meant I entered a church to vote.
I have long felt uneasy about elections held in church buildings. I worry this could be a space that does not truly provide a safe civic space for some. A public school just down the street would seem a more appropriate space for a public election. I worry it might unduly influence elections. Research, in fact, shows that where people vote slightly impacts how they vote, with voting in churches making people more conservative (but that's not why I'm opposed to the idea!). But most of all I worry this could help Christians think it's okay to mix church and state.
After working through my ballot, which seemed to include marking "no" a lot, I went to the machine to feed in my civic offering.
I then picked up my "I voted" sticker. In Virginia, my son usually got a "future voter" sticker. They didn't have such stickers at my precinct yesterday but he really wanted a sticker so I grabbed him an "I voted" sticker as well. He quickly put it on his Pooh Bear (who had, of course, gone to the voting booth with us) and proudly stated, "Pooh vote." We hadn't even left the polling room yet so I'm afraid that might start some voter fraud rumors (oh, bother).
As I left the church building with my son and the "I voted" Pooh Bear, I continued to wear my "I voted sticker." I like to vote in the morning and wear the sticker around as my civic witness.
Wearing the sticker seemed appropriate since I voted all day.
We went to the grocery store and I cast several votes: fair trade bananas over the other ones, healthy cereal over the sugary ones, and so on. Throughout the day I voted by choosing to do some things and choosing not to do others. Perhaps I should wear the sticker each day to remind me. I can't actually wear it again because my son ate it - seriously, he ripped it off my shirt last night, ate it, and repeatedly said, "I eat daddy sticker vote." But wearing it again could have been a good reminder that we don't just vote in ballot boxes.
As I scan the election results - some good, some bad - I must remember that my opportunities to vote continue again today. In that way perhaps it's almost appropriate to vote in a church building. Just as worship and faith must be more than what happens in a building on Sunday, politics and civic duty must be more than what happens in a building on Tuesday. Even as the campaign signs come down - until news ones come up for the next election - we must still live out our votes.