by Devin Srivastava
“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” This quote is written boldly on the back of my Youth in Government (YIG) shirt from three years ago. As election season rolled around and this year’s historic election came to a close, this quote took on new meaning to me – I was 18 for this election and for the first time, cast my vote. On election morning, I asked my mom what I needed to do in order to vote. I had registered a couple months earlier (I had already learned the lesson of not registering – I wasn’t allowed to vote in the primary because I wasn’t registered then) and just needed to bring my driver’s license with me.
I was shocked to find out that each voter is assigned a place to vote, and that voters can only vote at that location (mine was Gable Middle School). I made my way to Gable and was ready to vote. The only memory I had of voting in a presidential election was from when I was very young – the best part of that ordeal was getting to walk into a spooky, curtained booth as I clung on to my mom’s leg. Obviously, this time would be different.
The actual voting process itself was simple; I just selected my choices on the electronic screen. I was a little surprised that in addition to the presidential election, there were elections on a couple of governmental positions and a referendum on the sale of alcohol. All the discussions in history class came in handy as I filled out the ballot. As I was walking out, I held the door open for an old lady who was struggling on a cane. She told me the story of the first time that she voted, when she voted for Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. I then realized how historic and important what I had just done was – over past centuries, many Americans have fought for the ability to vote and be heard. Though my voting experience was as easy as walking into the voting booth and tapping on a screen, millions of Americans had not been granted this right without a fight.
It is easy to disregard voting – some of us may vote exactly as our parents do, we may feel that our vote is unimportant, and our desired candidate may not win. However, voting is the bedrock principle that secures freedoms easily taken for granted. For without voting, democracy is merely a government “of the few, for the for, by the few.” As I folded my YIG shirt that night, I smiled, knowing that for the first time in my 18 years, I had actively played in the game of American democracy, that was established over 200 years ago.