I was always one of those people who had their hand over the ballot to block anyone from looking over my shoulder. We still have paper ballots at my local polling places, so I tended to hunch over and hide.
This year, when I walked into my surprisingly empty polling location, there wasn't a single available pop up cardboard booth to stand at. I realized I could wait for one to open up, but then I realized I could also just sit at a table and get my voting done. And it was at that moment that I realized I could give two shits if anyone saw my ballot.
I'd gone online and done research about each of the major, and minor elections that were on my ballot. I had my notes on my phone so I could get in and out quickly without having to remember the extensive info about all the candidates. There were really only a few that were close for me, but I wanted to make sure I didn't get mixed up before I'd had my second cup of coffee.
A gentleman sat next to me and asked if I minded if he took up the space on the other side of the small table. I told him "no", because in the midwest, you are polite by default and even if something is an imposition you say it's fine anyway. Like family "dropping by" with less than a day's notice. It's no imposition at all....really. (Insert sarcasm font, and internal screaming here.)
But once the man sat down, and I found myself going about my business just as I had before, I realized I didn't give a fuck if he sat down and stared at my ballot.
I didn't give a fuck if he'd have shouted out that my votes were for people that weren't popular in my area. I'm a blue vote in a deep DEEP red state. While I don't always vote party lines, I'd be lying if I said my votes didn't have distinctly blue tinge to them, but I make sure I know who I'm voting for and why.
And if all I do with my vote is let people around me know that not everyone thinks like they do, then I've done something.
It took me a while to see it that way. Because in my state, my vote doesn't make much of a difference beyond local elections. Nope, I'm here to screw up the "landslide" effect and maybe make a wave to keep the elected officials from drifting too far out to the extremes. I'm here to put in my two cents. I'm here to vote, because I'm able to. And not voting isn't an option. Not voting is a slap in the face to the people who are standing outside a voting location for HOURS to have their say.
I speak with my money. I speak with how I behave in the real world. And I speak with my vote.
Today, I voted. Did you? I'd love to see your sticker. Tweet it at me or tag me on instagram. There are many reasons voting is important. Don't allow yourself to be silenced, even if your vote simply means you cancel out one of the majority. Your voice is louder than you think.