People are often surprised that I’m not a super voter or someone who has voted in every election.
I struggle with the privilege of claiming that one must vote to have a voice in democracy. Show up or shut up is hardly a democratic ideal. It can, in fact, lead people to feel more alienated and unrepresented by anyone in the elections. I say that not to diminish that very real threats to voting across this nation.
People consider not voting for all sorts of reasons, Some reasons are ridiculous, true, but others reflect the complicated nature of the American experiment in governance. Voting when you are living in poverty, when you have no car, when you are processing physical and emotional trauma, voting when you are disabled, when you have a double shift scheduled, when you have no childcare, when it is frustrating to figure out why the Democrats are listed as Republicans. Voting when your heart is broken. Voting isn’t always easy. Sometimes being a voter isn’t doable.
This election season, I’m caught up entanglements with City, County, State, and Federal government, mostly through law enforcement and the judicial systems. The heaviness of justice systems that are unfair, tilted against people without means, and show little room for the humanity of participants weighs me down.
I never expected to be in this position, but I’m sorry for how disappointing these systems can be. And it should be okay for me to state that opinion without fearing retribution. And I don’t really fear retribution because I’m basically a number in a system overextended and underfunded even with a private attorney. It isn’t personal at all. That’s part of the problem. It is the best we have, but it is not even remotely personal.
Briefly, I considered not making the effort to vote, allowing that melancholy to distort my perception. But I shook off my self-pity and requested my ballot.
These elections today do impact me a lot – my Allegheny County Council District is contested, the race for Allegheny County Chief Executive and District Attorney very much on my radar. The judicial elections. All that I’ve learned this year from my Political Q&A Series has filled my mind with questions and nuances and, perhaps most importantly, the sense of progress – the elections of Summer Lee to Congress and three queer women to the Allegheny County PA General Assembly delegation. From FredLee Quinn serving out and proud in Swissvale to the countless LGBTQ individuals serving on school boards across 500 Pennsylvania districts.
I voted because I am angry, furious that these systems I’ve worked to build more progressively for decades have failed me and countless other residents. My pen shook as I filled ou the ballot, trembling with indignation and fury. I’m as angry with the people who did vote as those who didn’t.
I’m an angry voter, but don’t think I’m overwrought to the point that I’m uninformed. I get sad and then I get to work. Today that work is reminding you that your vote (or lack of a vote) has real implications for many vulnerable people. But it is not my place to admonish or lecture you. My recent experiences have humbled me.
And it is probably useful to say that while my finances are constrained by circumstances, one thing was not eliminated – my modest monthly donation to the Biden-Harris reelection campaign.
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