I am ashamed. The last time I voted was in the historic 2008 presidential election when Democrat Barack Obama faced Republican John McCain. At the time, I struggled with my decision, but I knew the election’s importance. I felt like my vote counted.
But then, as the years passed, I did something terrible. I grew disillusioned, let apathy take over and stopped voting. But thanks to an effective campaign, my non-voting past was thrust in my face and I was forced to face my inaction.
I got two pieces of mail this week, one of which was my voting report card. I failed.
The Voter Participation Center’s direct mail pieces, with an Austin-based return address, not only publicly displayed my apathy in black-and-white but vote-shamed me further as they compared my dismal voting practices with my neighbors. (Read about the ruckus these report cards have stirred up.)
According to the Center, my lack of participation was in stark contrast to those living around me, who at worse, missed one of the last four general elections between 2010 and 2016. I missed all four – as you can see to the left.
On the state level, the Center said I was “voting less often than almost 92% of the voters in (Texas).”
Your votes themselves are private, as the letters point out, but whether or not you voted is public record. Looking at my voting history first embarrassed me, then led into a feeling of righteous indignation like, ‘Well, who do these people think they are?’ Ultimately, I realized, the Center had a point and made it well.
I thought about those who fought for our voting freedom, how other countries don’t even give their citizens the option of voting and how my votes do count (in so many ways).
So on the last day of early voting Friday, I found myself in line at the local public library, clutching my voter registration card and taking part in my American civic duty. I wasn’t alone either. The line behind me had grown to snake around two walls of the library when I finished casting my vote.
I’m proud that I voted and I want to thank the Voter Participation Center for giving me a not-so-gentle nudge to the polls.
I was vote-shamed, but it worked. And while I have a long way to go to improve my report card, I took a big step and I voted. You should, too.