It’s a year of voting nervously, as the US outcome is set to dramatically change the course of history - GulfToday

It’s a year of voting nervously, as the US outcome is set to dramatically change the course of history


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mary Schmich, Tribune News Service

My 2020 presidential ballot came in the mail recently. I plucked it from the mailbox and held it nervously, the way you might hold a fragile heirloom or a baby or a bomb. So much power in such a small package. Handle with care.

For the next few days, I left the envelope unopened on the dining table. I’d glance at it every now and then, each time with a pang of elation and anxiety.

I’ve never voted by mail, and it felt weird to have a ballot so far in advance of Election Day. I’ve always liked the communal ritual of the voting booth on deadline, saying hello to the poll workers, leaving with my little “I Voted” ticket.

But this year, in the midst of pandemic fears, I requested a mail ballot as soon as I could. By the time the ballot arrived, however, the world had changed, and I’d changed my mind. I wanted to vote in person.

Apparently a lot of people share that change of heart, so many that voting officials are worried that the polls will be swamped. The reason for the change? We’re nervous.

Even if you haven’t fallen for the current president’s lies and threats about voting — his baseless conspiracy theories about massive mail fraud and rigged elections, on and on — it’s hard to escape the uneasiness he has planted about the process.

That uneasiness is why a lot of people I know are choosing to walk their absentee ballots to a polling place or a drop-off box, even if they still believe, as I do, that the Postal Service can handle the ballots.

“Just to be on the safe side,” one friend said after voting in person. Another reported dropping off her ballot at a polling place and feeling as emotional as a parent dropping off a kid at college. “Ain’t nobody suppressing this girl’s vote,” she declared.

“I am so paranoid,” said another, “that not only am I voting early, in person, but I don’t want to vote too early in case something happens to Joe Biden and I need to have my vote available for someone else. Isn’t that nuts? But I can’t help it. I feel like the one thing I can control about this whole mess is my vote. And I want it to count.”

For all of my lifetime, until now, it was possible to acknowledge the profound failures of the American system while still believing we lived in a democracy, a country in which liberty and justice were a shared goal, if not a shared reality.

From childhood we learned that the United States was the country that helped other countries fight fascism. Now we face our own slide toward fascism — this is not an exaggeration — and there are no countries to come to our rescue. In countries where ours was once envied and admired, we’re now pitied and mocked.

It’s up to us to save ourselves. And the way we do that is to vote, even though many of us are more nervous about voting than ever before.

We’re nervous because this vote will dramatically change the course of history, ours and the world’s. We’re nervous because our current president has undermined faith in the voting process, going so far as to insinuate that no matter the vote, he’ll declare it illegitimate unless he wins. But nervousness is also motivation. You could see the motivation at work Thursday in Chicago, when early voting opened at the Loop Super Site, and people lined up at 6 a.m., two and a half hours before the doors opened. In suburban locations where early voting started recently, there have been times when hundreds of people stood in line.

On Thursday, I finally opened my ballot. I spread the pages out on the table. Carefully read the instructions, as nervous as a student studying for an exam. I plan to fill it out in a few days, and when the polling place near my house opens for early voting on Oct. 14, I plan to walk it to a drop-off box there.

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