What Really Counts

Women surrounded by posters in English and Yiddish supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert H. Lehman, and the American Labor Party teach other women how to vote, 1936.

As we enter an election cycle that promises to be intense and potentially groundbreaking, the Jewish Women’s Archive is looking to collect your stories about elections. Some possible topics you might explore include:

  • What was your first experience of voting?
  • Do you have family lore about elections? (A story of a grandparent trying to vote, or a memory of going to the polls with a parent, or how you’re teaching your children about elections.)
  • If you’re under eighteen, or not a citizen, what’s it like to be aware of the issues but unable to participate in this way?

To make it as simple as possible for you to share your story, you can email your story to us. We’re excited to hear from you—thanks in advance for sharing your story with us! And please read on for my voting story.

I wasn’t allowed to vote until I was twenty-one.

I went to college in a stretch of upstate New York that didn’t want liberal college students messing up their Republican enclave, so they decreed that students had to vote in their home districts. Except that my parents had moved from New York to Massachusetts the week I went off to college, so I had no home district: I wasn’t a Massachusetts resident, and New York wouldn’t let me vote.

I finally went to my first voting precinct in November of 2000, in the basement of a small-town church near the college. My best friend and I pulled the levers, chatted with the grandmotherly volunteers, and admired the bake sale wares on a nearby folding table. He bought a mason jar of clam chowder, I bought a homemade apple pie, and we went home to wait for the results. And wait. And wait. Hours stretched into painful days as the Bush/Gore horror show staggered from hanging chads to recounts to Gore’s final, quiet concession.

Despite that disappointing start, or maybe because of it, I have voted in every midterm, every primary, and every presidential election since. I may not have much power as a single voter, but I’ll be damned if I let anyone take that power away from me again. There have been times when I growled in frustration or disappointment, times when I cheered in the streets with my neighbors, but as a Jew and a woman, I am too aware of the long history of disenfranchisement to ever sit on the sidelines or take my right to vote for granted.

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How to cite this page

Feld, Lisa Batya. "What Really Counts." 17 February 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 20, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/what-really-counts>.