Why I Vote

One of my earliest political memories, when I was only seven years old, was the ratification of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allowed the voting age across the United States to be lowered to 18. My father worked at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica at the time, and I remember sitting down with him in our house in San José to figure out when that meant I could first vote for president. I was disappointed to learn that I’d have to wait an extra two years—until I was 20—because there would be no presidential election when I first turned 18. The first year I could vote for president, 1984, seemed preposterously far away to my second grade brain.

My mother’s family was always heavily involved in Connecticut politics—she was born on Election Day 1934, the same day her father lost a state race for elective office—so I feel as though I have been aware of the importance of voting since I was old enough to walk. “Daley Loses Election, Gains Daughter” is how The New Haven Register covered the story; that was as much part of Daley/Moon family lore as anything else I can remember. Elections have always been a part of the conversation in my home, sometimes even years before (or after) they actually happen.

So I always vote. I vote in primaries and local elections and for the Region One school budget and for lieutenant governor and comptroller…and, certainly, for the U.S. House and Senate and President. I haven’t failed to vote in decades, as far as I can recall, and I treat everything about Election Day as special. I’ve even been on the ballot myself, twice. In fact, I’m proud to be an elected Salisbury town official right now.

Does my vote matter? In every conceivable way, yes. 

It matters in a purely numerical fashion; in local elections, the difference can be quite minuscule. In our most recent State Representative vote, for example, Maria Horn defeated Brian Ohler by 55 votes, out of over 11,000 cast. It isn’t hard to see how one community of voters could have a powerful impact on a tight race; had a few dozen people stayed home that day, Ohler may well have carried the day in 2018. The two candidates had remarkably different goals and visions for the Northwest Corner of Connecticut, and they are battling it out again this year. It will come down to turnout, I suspect, because voting always matters. 

It matters in terms of my connection to my community. To vote responsibly, I need to understand the issues in my town, state, and country. I have not been a straight-ticket voter in every election. I have voted for candidates in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and even something called A Connecticut Party. I’ve voted for political heroes and against a few villains, but mostly for a whole lot of people somewhere in between. I’ve studied local, state, and national issues and tried to make my decision based on my own values in order to elect the people I think will help meet those values the most. I want to be involved in where I live, so voting always matters.

Most importantly, to me, voting matters in terms of my role in this democratic system. I get an opportunity to voice my support or displeasure with the candidates, the parties, or even the whole system. Win or lose, I have the opportunity to speak up and register my position, and when I look at the results the next day I will be able to see where my vote was tallied. It’s a fairly anonymous way to speak truth to power, but I believe that all positions of authority should have checks on them. Voting someone in or out of those positions is the ultimate power in America, as I see it. To hold elected officials accountable, voting always matters. 

2020 will be the 10th time I have voted for president of the United States, and my record so far is distinctly mixed–I have cast my vote for 4 winners and 5 losers to date. But that’s probably true for most Americans my age or older: Republicans have won the White House eight times since 1960 and Democrats have won seven.  

Vote in 2020, if you can. And, if you see it the way I do, please vote in 2021 too, if you can. And 2022. In fact, don’t ever miss a chance to vote. It’s your voice: always let it be heard. Voting always matters.