Voting is about being visible.
Writing is about being visible.
Your work means nothing if you don’t concern yourself with the “47 percent” who are invisible.
Usually, casting a ballot is easy and within walking distance. But today I had to drive to the County Clerk’s office in Jersey City, where I had to go through a metal detector (creepy).Then I had to print my name in a book, sign it and note the exact time of my arrival (creepier). Then I got into an elevator with a directory that looked like it was in a foreign language except for one destination: Creepiest!
Finally I got off on the fourth floor and found:In China, the number four is considered unlucky; it sounds the same as the word for “death.” Buildings do not have fourth floors. People avoid having addresses that contain the number four.
But we’re not in China, are we? The number four in the U.S. is just another number. And the fact that I’ve arrived at the County Clerk’s office to VOTE means just the opposite of unlucky — I am SO INCREDIBLY LUCKY, I have no idea.
Well, maybe I do a little bit.
In my family, I’m pretty sure that my father was the first to cast a vote. My great-grandfather who was the first to immigrate to the U.S. from China in the late 1800s, was a U.S. citizen, but there were many obstacles that likely prevented him from voting, such as a poll tax or a requirement to own property. When these requirements were abolished to increase the number of white male voters, there was still the requirement that he couldn’t get around — that he be a white male citizen. Then my grandfather didn’t vote either, to my knowledge. He lived in Seattle’s Chinatown his entire life, but there weren’t voter education and registration drives back then and he likely didn’t know or didn’t care to vote.
But my dad voted and he let me know it.
His conversations ran to politics and politicians every day.
He followed the local city council and mayoral elections.
He followed the county elections.
He followed the state elections.
He followed the national elections.
He followed the elections, dictatorships, coups, civil wars and struggles abroad.
He had an opinion on everyone and everything, every night (and still does!).
And he let me know it.
When I turned 18, I voted for the first time and I haven’t missed an election since. (Do you think I dare? My dad would really give it to me then!)
And today was the second time that I had to cast an absentee ballot because I will be out of the country when the general election occurs in November.
This is how to vote by absentee ballot.
You can download it from the internet and send it in, and then receive your ballot in the mail, or you can ask for it in person at your county clerk’s office.
If you do it in person, you can vote on the spot! You don’t have to wait for anything. You don’t have to mail something in. Here’s my ballot:Did you know that there are 10, yes, count ’em, TEN presidential candidates this year? I had no idea! In addition to the two parties that I knew about, on my ballot were the Green Party, NJ Justice Party, Libertarian Party, NSA Did 911, Constitution Party, Socialism and Liberation, American Third Position, and Socialist Workers Party. And if none of those will do, in the last column is a space for my “Write-in Vote.”
2. Follow the directions: 3. After you fill in the bubbles, fold your ballot and put it into the envelope below and sign the certificate on the front which says that you marked and sealed your ballot in SECRET, which means that no one was around to force you to vote their way, or to vote for you. If someone was around to help you in some way, they have to sign it too and say that they will keep your vote a secret:4. Heed the warning on the envelope, or else!5. Seal the envelope and put it into a second envelope and seal that one too:6. Then you take your doubly sealed ballot and walk down a long corridor …7. To the Board of Elections office, where in the large book on the counter (below, right), you write today’s date, print your name TWICE, sign your name once, write your address, and note the exact time that you are doing so:9. Then hand your ballot to the nice man who doesn’t want his picture taken:10. He slides it immediately into the clock punch machine behind him, which makes a loud noise, DOK! Then he puts your ballot into the “Walk-in Ballots” bin on the far right:11. You leave by a different elevator, which has a much better destination:12. You leave feeling like you’ve done something very important.
13. You remember a Skype conversation you had recently with your young cousin in China who is following the U.S. elections. She was excited and wanted to know who you were going to vote for. You tell her. You also wanted her to know that you knew something about Chinese politics, so you ask her about the People’s National Congress that is meeting in a few weeks, which meets every five years for leadership changes. You ask her how she’s going to vote.
14. Her voice rings in your ears. “We can’t vote here,” she said. Oh yeah. Duh.
15. Suddenly you know just how lucky you are.