I mean, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, or feeling particularly disillusioned or disenfranchised. Truth is, I just didn’t care.
See, I was living in Florida at the time, but on the day in question I was in New Orleans, in the middle of a multi-month road trip for work.
Of course, I could have gotten an absentee ballot and voted anyway, but that just seemed like a bit of a hassle. (Please read the previous sentence in your whiniest, angstiest teenage voice.)
And anyway, what difference would one vote make? Surely my vote wouldn’t matter.
So on the night in question, my business partner and I are barhopping around the French Quarter, and of course every bar is running the election results.
First bar we go into has the news anchor calling Florida for Gore. Oh that’s good then, think I. Drink.
Second bar has them saying oh, whoopsie, did we say Gore we meant Bush sorry not sorry. Oh that’s too bad, think I. Drink.
Next bar, Gore. Next bar, Bush. On and on throughout the night. I stumble home. Fall asleep. Wake up the next morning in my hotel room. And turn on CNN just in time to hear the announcer say, “Well, the election’s still undecided, and it all comes down to the state of Florida.”
Darn, think I. I should have voted.
He goes on: “And one of the most hotly contested counties in Florida is Broward County” -- where I lived.
Darn, think I. I *really* should have voted.
He delivers the killer blow: “And I’m broadcasting to you from Lester’s Diner” -- the diner on the corner of my block, where I had breakfast multiple times a week, and my horror is growing as I’m waiting for him to add, “and YOU, KAILA COLBIN, YOU DIDN’T VOTE, AND WE’RE ALL WAITING FOR YOU.”
I felt sick. Worse, for eight years, I felt I had no right to complain.
That election came down to 537 votes in the state of Florida. So, no, my one vote wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
But it’s a hell of a lot harder to argue that your vote doesn’t matter when you’re one of 537 instead of one of 130,000,000.
Right now, we’re being inundated with punditry and prognostication: This is what the polls say! This is what’s likely to happen! This person’s winning! This person’s losing!
These messages are compounded by dire predictions: The post office is being undermined! The Supreme Court is being stacked!
You would be forgiven for thinking, as I did 20 years ago, that it’s all just a bit of a hassle. That surely your vote won’t matter.
But imagine. Imagine waking up the day after the election. Imagine turning on the TV and hearing the news that your vote, along with just a few hundred others, would have swung the election one way or the other.
Imagine the happier scenario: that you cast your vote, and the election goes your way with only a few hundred votes to spare.
The media doesn’t decide the election. You do. We do. And even if it is a bit of a hassle, your vote matters. Your vote is your voice. Your vote is your power. Your vote is the single most democratic tool in the whole dang democracy.
So use it. Vote. We’re all waiting for you.