Celebrating My Right to Vote: Women's Equality Day
With Women’s Equality Day just around the corner, voting has been on my mind.
And, I’ll admit it, voting isn’t usually on my mind—especially during August. But Women’s Equality Day, which celebrates women’s right to vote, has me thinking about voting.
I’m a pretty civic-minded person—fast to roll my eyes at people who tell me they don’t see the point in voting. While I’m not usually thinking about voting, it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that I take voting for granted. In fact, I can’t imagine not being able to vote. Voting, expressing my views and taking a stand, is so central to my belief system that it’s hard to imagine not being able to vote.
My first presidential election saw Al Gore and George W Bush duking it out. I was a freshman in college, living in Massachusetts, and voting in Florida where my parents lived. To be a brand new voter, old enough to vote for just a few months, was an incredible rush. I knew my vote counted. I knew your vote counted. And I knew—when I was displeased with the results—whom to blame. Those friends of mine who didn’t bother to vote? Cut off, no second chance.
Whether or not my attitude crossed the line from “engaged citizen” to “holier-than-thou” is up for debate. But at 18, I simply couldn’t comprehend why one wouldn’t take advantage of the ability to vote. I’d like to think that Bella Abzug would have had my back. After all, the activist, lawyer, and Congresswoman, was said to have been born yelling. In 1971 she (probably with a bit of yelling) introduced a bill commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which had enfranchised women 51 years before. Voting seems like a given these days. It was Rep. Abzug’s job to help us remember that wasn’t always the case.
The suffragists battled for years for women’s right to vote. I take that seriously. But in 2004 I came dangerously close to breaking my streak of voting in presidential elections. Needing an absentee ballot, but being busy with college life, I put off phoning the Florida office of the election supervisor until the very last minute. I’ll warn you about the moral of this story before I tell it: voting is more important than wearing pants.
I didn’t always have the best reception in my dorm room, and when I finally called the voting place, they had trouble getting my details correct. Knowing that if I messed this up I wouldn’t be able to vote, I flew out the door to finish the conversation outside.
I just happened to not be wearing pants. Or carrying keys. But, like I said, voting is more important than wearing pants.
In 2008 Americans were given the chance to cast their vote in an unprecedented election. I felt that power when I held the ballot in my hand. I felt the responsibility. And, I felt the privilege. This past presidential election I voted in person for the first time. I took this responsibility so seriously that I took the day off from work.
This Monday marks Women’s Equality Day and I will be celebrating my right to vote. Whether or not I’ll be wearing pants is a whole other story.