I'm a voter. I've cast a ballot in every presidential election I've been eligible to, and I'm a firm believer in the power of filling in that little bubble for democracy (those touch screens can take a hike).
But I almost didn't vote this year. Yes, in the most momentous election of our time (first and last time you will hear me utter that overused phrase), I nearly skipped out on making my choice, because, sadly, I don't trust that my vote will be counted.
See, I'm going to be in Chicago next week on Election Day, covering what is being billed as the massive rally for Democratic Senator Barack Obama in Grant Park. That means I won't be in Cincinnati to cast a ballot where I usually do, at the megachurch inside the old Home Depot with the awesome sound system, theater lighting and amazing free coffee bar.
As a result, I had to vote early. And call me crazy, but having covered the 2000 and 2004 elections for MTV News, I was a bit skeptical about whether this new experiment in democracy was really going to work. For the first time ever, as in more than 30 states, Ohio voters have been able to cast their ballots well before November 4 (since the beginning of this month, actually). And while more than 17 million people across the country have voted early as of today, I keep getting this creeping suspicion that a last-minute, Hail Mary effort from one of the campaigns will attempt to invalidate these votes on some technicality. Will early voting be the new hanging chad, this year's version of the provisional ballot? Maybe I've just watched too many Michael Moore movies.
Pushing my concerns aside, I went down to the local election board this morning, waited in a line that snaked more than two blocks long and listened as a parade of local pols broke the rules by handing out their literature well within the "no politicking" zone. I did appreciate the one woman who ran up and down the line encouraging people, "Vote! You're making history! Don't matter who ya vote for! You're making history!"
An hour later, I made it up to the depressingly drab, overheated voting area — a large room filled with collapsible, rickety, old-school voting booths with tethered pens and signs reminding voters to cover up any clothing or buttons promoting a particular candidate. That was the longest I'd ever waited to vote. I asked the woman giving me my ballot if my wait was typical, and she smiled and said, "No, it's usually more than an hour, sometimes, like, two or three."
"And people wait around for that and don't get mad?" I asked.
"Nope. They wanna vote."
"Cool," I told her. "Very cool."
So, like T.I., I voted early. I filled out the bubbles, folded the form twice, like they said to, licked my envelope, took my "I MADE A DIFFERENCE — SO CAN YOU — VOTE" sticker and walked out. I still had a nagging feeling about it, but I hope my vote counts. I expect it to count.
As corny as this sounds, I also believe this is the most important election of our time. Seeing that the line was almost twice as long when I left as it was when I arrived somehow reassured me that I'm definitely not the only one.
For every election I've been a part of, the pundits seem to relish the chance to talk about how the huge youth-voter turnout fizzled, and "the kids" once again failed to show up as expected. Don't be a statistic. Get out there and vote. Do it early if you can, or do it on Tuesday, but just do it.
Have you voted early? Tell us about it!