I have been a registered voter in Maryland since 1971, the year I turned 18. I have always considered voting to be my sacred duty. Although I have a few vague memories of Dwight (“I Like Ike”) Eisenhower and his wife Mamie (with those famous bangs), my political awakening really began in 1960, when at age 7, I watched the televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. From that moment, on, I became a political junkie, reading every book and article I could find on the Kennedys and following all the events of that era, including Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and the ensuing presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. At age 12, I witnessed the signing of the Voters Rights Act of 1965, not fully understanding the portent of that Act for me, personally.
Black women were not ensured a vote until 1965!
The summer before I turned 15, I worked briefly in the Baltimore office of Bobby Kennedy’s fatal campaign for president, stuffing envelopes and proudly wearing my handmade “Kennedy” necklace of red, white, and blue beads. After Bobby’s cruel death, I again collected every piece of writing I could find on his life and stunted legacy. I continued to study and sometimes act on the political and social issues of the late 1960s. While I was working at a part-time office job in early 1971, my boss offered to walk me to the Baltimore Elections office on our lunch hour so I could register to vote.
Over these past 49 years, I have only missed voting in one local election—an election whose outcome was already forecast, for a candidate I could not support. That is not to say, however, that I haven’t made some off the wall choices! Who even remembers the ill-fated 1980 campaign of ex-Republican John Anderson, who ran for president as an Independent? I still have not one, but two campaign buttons from that one.
But aside from Kennedy, the most important President in my lifetime has been Barack Obama. To see all his accomplishments over 8 years undone by the current president has been a cruel nightmare. Which brings me to Today, October 19, 2020.
In the midst of this Covid Pandemic Nightmare, I made it my mission to vote by mail! Notwithstanding the centuries of beatings, poll taxes, and other impediments to voting in American History, the 2020 Election has been, by far, the most difficult, impeded vote I have ever made. On August 5, 2020, I submitted an online application to my state election board to vote by mail. While navigating the maze of questions and instructions, I was asked to complete a request for a replacement voter’s card that I did not need or want. The card was sent post haste. I was given a choice between having my ballot mailed to me or downloading and printing out my own ballot. Worried that the dismantling of the USPS by the administration that was sworn to uphold it would delay my ballot, I chose the latter. I should have trusted the USPS. On September 28, 2020, the elections board sent me an email notice that my ballot was available to download. I didn’t even see the email until a week ago. Then, when I replaced my printer’s ink cartridges, to print out the ballot—and the return envelope, the magenta cartridge registered as DEFECTIVE! Two more replacement cartridges did the same. In my frustration, I wrote the following:
October 12, 2020 Obsolescence - An Insta-Poem
Who gets to decide
when a machine is obsolete?
But for a magenta ink cartridge,
my Ballot would be complete
and I'd be finishing my Civic Duty.
Now, after wasting precious dollars on two rejected
I am forced to choose between other options,
none of them easy:
Lug the printer to a shop,
in hope that it can be repaired
(But for that magenta ink, it would work--I swear!),
Take the downloaded
documents to the
same shop and pay
to print them;
Or get in line and
cast my vote in person...
Not voting is NOT an option.
I WILL find a way.
Last week, I finally found a commercial printer to print out my ballot. But not the envelope. In desperation, I contacted a few friends for help. One of those friends was ready, willing, and able! Yesterday, after driving around in search of this friend’s house, I found them, joined them for a brief, socially distanced conversation, and drove home with my prize. Late last night, I sat down and carefully filled out the ballot, completed the checklist, inserted the ballot into the envelope, and sealed it.
Shortly after noon, today, I drove to my local drop box and inserted my ballot. I have now completed my Civic Duty!
If you have not already done so,