I Waited 32 Years to Vote. And I Almost Didn't Make It.
I became a U.S. Citizen only a few months ago. It was a decade-long struggle that I finally won (I’ll leave those details for another day). But by the time I sent in my voter registration information, I was told it would be too late to vote in this year’s election. I had never voted in my life and I was deeply disappointed that I would have to wait two more years.
As I watched the news on Tuesday night, the results came streaming in. ‘Another election, another time on the sidelines,’ I thought. But something I never expected was going on. King County accepted postmarked ballots as long as it was stamped before midnight, November 2nd.
“It sucks that I can’t vote,” I said out loud.
“Your ballot was sitting on the table.” My wife said.
Wait, what? King County government was much more efficient than they themselves expected. I received a Voter’s Pamphlet a few weeks ago, but I set it aside without reading since I thought I wouldn’t be able to vote. My very smart wife (who is completely uninterested in politics) actually flipped through the pamphlet.
I got my PJ-wearing butt off the couch and hurried to the kitchen. The pamphlet was gone. Before I could say a word… “I put it in the recycling bin,” she added.
And there it was. The ballot. A chance to vote for the first time in my life, mixed in with shredded bills and old magazines. Democracy smelled of dog treats and overly-ripe apples. The clock read 11:03 pm. 57 minutes left in my chance to vote.
I filled in the form as quickly as I could, making sure I was voting for who and what I wanted. Licked, sealed, ready to go. Crap. No stamp. There was no time to dig around the house.
“Make sure you pick up extra stamps!” She said as I bolted out the door.
11:12 pm. 48 minutes left. As my Smart Car approached the Queen Anne post office, I got a call from Emily. She let me know that there was only one post office in the area that would be accepting ballots until midnight. And it was all the way down in SeaTac. She would serve as my dispatch and text the address while I was on my way.
I punched the gas and the Smart Car responded as if it was just a suggestion. The tiny, 1 liter, 70 horsepower engine took its sweet time pushing me to 60 MPH. The excitement and impending deadline pushed adrenaline through my body. My vote may not matter at this point, but I was going to do what I couldn’t for the last 32 years. I was almost sweating. But that just turned out to be the temperature set too high. I turned down the heat in the car.
During the drive down, I thought about how I would explain my impassioned driving to the police if I got pulled over. A white Smart Car flying down Highway 99 probably stands out like an alien spaceship in a Walmart parking lot.
‘Yes, officer. I was speeding. But please just write the ticket as quickly as you can. You see, I’ve waited 32 years to vote and I have just minutes left. In fact, could you consider giving me an escort?’
OK, maybe not. I mean, how fast can a 9-foot plastic car go?
The post office on 32nd Street was buzzing with activity and Democracy would throw up one more hurdle. A decrepit Camry was parked illegally in the handicapped spot, taking a space and half, and there were no other spots left. I gingerly squeezed the Cheezmobile into whatever opening was left by the crumbling Camry. I wanted this badly.
Stamped? Check. Return address? Check. Sealed? Check.
But before I handed the ballot over to be postmarked, I paused to savor this hard-earned moment and asked the mailman to take a picture. It was 11:37 pm. 23 minutes to the end of Election Day 2010.
P.S. And I got the extra stamps just like my wife wanted. America, and the Huh family, slept well that night.