There are a lot of things you need to do when you move from one state to another. There are all the obvious things like connect the utilities, forward your mail, give your mom the new phone number. And the not so obvious things. Like registering to vote. Ah, you already know where this is going, don’t you?
Ten years ago, during a presidential election year no less, I was not registered to vote. Oh, I was old enough, and had a clean criminal record and proof of citizenship. But we had just moved. Ok, so we had moved eleven months and three weeks prior to the election, but it seemed like just yesterday. I was working full-time, the kids were little and had to be driven everywhere, and life was hectic. And I didn’t really forget, exactly, I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. The election was still weeks away and I took for granted there was plenty of time. No problem.
Until one day, someone on the radio said they hoped everyone had remembered to register to vote because it was now officially too late.
Too late? And I had not registered. I went that very day, hoping maybe I’d heard wrong and it wasn’t too late. Maybe they’d make an exception. Nope. No mistake, no exceptions. Oh, I registered all right. Just too late.
I spent weeks kicking myself and feeling horrible. Like a criminal. Disenfranchised. I never thought I’d use that word, it sounds so corny, but it is very accurate. Until then, I had voted in every election since the day I turned eighteen. Sometimes my votes were misguided — driven solely by party loyalty or influenced by factors other than the issues — and sometimes they were pitifully uninformed or cynically apathetic. But I had never before failed to exercise my right to vote.
Election day rolled around and it seemed everyone I saw, even complete strangers in the elevator, asked me whether I had voted. Unable to admit my own stupidity and unwilling to lie, I told everyone I usually voted on the way home from work. Which was true. Just not that year.
So, go ahead and ask me today. I will answer: “Hell yes, I voted. Did you?”
Because I remember all too clearly the one time I couldn’t.