One of my most vivid childhood memories is of voting with my parents. My mother would bring me with her into the heavily curtained booth; she’d flip the switch next to her preferred candidates’ names; I’d get to pull the enormous-to-me lever that would simultaneously register her selections and draw back the curtain, releasing us from the musty metal booth. Because I could see whom she’d voted for, I never asked. But I remember the first time I asked my father. And I remember his answer: “It’s none of your business.”
My dad was not a man who hid things from me; he was open about so many aspects of how the world operated, and of how he operated in the world. But one thing that had a sanctity he believed in preserving was the secrecy surrounding the voting ballot. This was frustrating for me as a kid, and even as a young adult; I knew who he was probably voting for between Hillary and Obama, but why wouldn’t he just tell me?? I want to know what I want to know when I want to know it, damnit. But I accepted his position, even if I didn’t live by it myself.
And then 2016 happened. Suddenly, knowing for whom people were voting months in advance was not just possible, it was inescapable. At this point, you could show me a celebrity (or even a “celebrity”) and I could tell you who they want for president. But more than that: It’s not just that I know who people want to win, I also know all the many, many, MANY reasons why the opposing candidate is the worst thing to happen to the electoral process since hanging chads. It’s overwhelming and it’s exhausting and it’s enough to make anyone so disillusioned with the earnestness and brokenness of the whole system that they probably won’t want to vote at all, which would be an understandable, if undesirable outcome. (Unless they’re Republicans, in which case it’s the most desirable outcome possible. Anyway.)
The importance of ballot-secrecy is a good thing to remember today; historically, asking a person who they’re voting for was a means of intimidation and coercion, and that’s still the case today, albeit a more subtle one. Or, you know not: There’s little that’s subtle about using the Bernie filter on Snapchat, after all.
So, if you vote today (and again, don’t worry about it if you’re a Republican; your vote is garbage and so are you!), I welcome seeing your “I Voted” sticker on Instagram or Twitter or whatever happens to be your social media platform of choice. But, please, consider keeping your actual vote private. It’s none of my business, and I’d prefer it stay that way.
photo by Jane Bruce