view from central park

A long, winding road: Honoring the right to vote


Whenever election season rolls around, especially Election Day itself, I get that feel-good democracy vibe. If I was making a “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” list, I would add “voting” right alongside “schnitzel and noodles.”

My grandmother, who was born in 1916 to a feminist mother, ingrained in me the holiness of the having the privilege and ability to vote. Her pride in exercising the 19th Amendment was palpable. Whether she was ill or the weather was terrible, even in very old age, she always cast her ballot!

I remember approaching my first election and the conversations surrounding it. My grandmother and parents made me feel like a million bucks for being able to exercise this rite of passage into young adulthood.

There were many stimulating discussions about the goals of the Democratic and Republican parties and their differences.

I remember feeling torn, and honored, like the decision was monumental, as if my registering to vote would really mean something (which of course it does). Ultimately, with a deep appreciation and respect for America’s Founding Fathers, for their wisdom, their system of checks and balances that is in large part what makes America the great nation that it is, I registered as an independent.

The first time I voted, my father accompanied me. I had been inside the top-secret voting booth before, having been taken along as a child. This time, however, the occasion was imbued with a sense of importance. You would think I was about to announce my candidacy for political office.

Since then, my father has gone to great lengths to ensure that me and my siblings, some of whom are still registered in Colorado, would receive absentee ballots with more than enough time for us to send them in.

I always value my father’s political guidance and opinions; he is so thought-out. One by one, we combed through the issues on the ballot as he explained the purposes of each.

Over the years, so many times we have sat around the dining room table together, ballots unfurled, talking it over, choosing and marking squares according to our preferences.

There were years I voted from Manhattan, and years I voted from Jerusalem. In New York City, it’s always a perfect fall day, lines of people winding around the block, framed by gold and orange-tinged trees.

In Jerusalem, I remember one election in particular, where in my mind I felt an added sense of importance to exercising my right to vote.

The year was 2000. The tension in the air — you could cut it with a knife, if you ventured outside for anything other than the absolute basics.

It was right at the beginning of the intifada, though it wasn’t formally called that yet. It was right after the grisly lynching of two Israelis in Ramallah, with the sickeningly iconic bloodied palms-at-the-window seared into our psyches. Bombs were everywhere. The air was thick with fear. There was an eerie feeling of terrible possibility in the air.

I was still in my twenties and hadn’t voted in that many elections; this time, I decided, I was going to forgo the dangerous trip to the post office to send my absentee ballot.

But voting was the type of thing we were nudged about. My parents and my grandmother asked me about my ballot, reminding me to take care of it. It gnawed at me.

Of course, had they known my conflict they would have told me
to forget about it and not go to a busy part of the city — always a target. But as the deadline neared, with my heart nervously beating so loudly that I could hear it, I gathered my courage and went ahead to the post office mail my ballot.

In my young mind, it was a risk to be taken for the sake of American freedom.

Of course, many throughout history truly have sacrificed for our right to vote. And many have had to cross very real barriers in order to cast a vote. But I still always think of that ballot I cast in 2000 as the time I overcame fear in order to do everything I could to ensure that I voted.

Copyright Intermountain Jewish News