Since turning 18 in 2002, I have taken full advantage of my right to vote. In every local race to the Kerry-Bush 2004 race, I have taken the five minutes to walk to my neighborhood polling place (the residence of a very charming couple) and cast my vote on what or who I think is best for my city, state and country.
However, as the years pile on me, so does the pile of information about American democracy and more so, in these past few months. I have studied the voting irregularities, the process of provisional ballots and the varying laws in each state, among other aspects of the voting procedure. I have also read about the voting irregularities in many of the states during the presidential race in 2000 and 2004 - all of which have changed my view on what we call a "democracy" and the thoughts have been fluttering through my mind and continue to do so as Election Day gets closer.
But, then something else happened to me recently. I discovered that the private residence, which I am register to vote at has a "McCain-Palin" yard sign. The pleasant, courteous couple, whom I associate with every Election Day when I go to their home to cast my vote, were publicly stating their opinion. It wasn't as though, I had assumed they didn't hold political opinions all along or failed to realize that they're humans - it was or is the fact that they will be poll workers and their house would become a polling place in just a few short days.
Thoughts of the butterfly ballots, Cynthia McKinney's speeches on voter fraud and my African-American friend's story about how it took her over five hours to vote in Pennsylvania all filled my mind.
Call it paranoia, but I had the right to feel this way.
I then called my local Registrar's office, expecting the employee to be shocked at my discovery of a polling place promoting their choice for president and vice president. Instead, I received a very tranquil woman who said, "As long as they take it down on Election Day, I don't see what the big deal is."
My immediate response was, "Can I just vote at the main office then?"
My question was followed by an answer telling me the lines would be far too long at the office but I could still vote absentee. And, so my idealistic view of what the future may possibly bring for me and my family further sank when I hung up the phone - knowing that my local Registrar's office couldn't care less about how unnerving I, as a voter, felt.
Nonetheless, because I was fortunate to be born and raised in this country, I and the rest of my family members decided to vote absentee rather than not voting at all. Of course, there isn't a guarantee that an absentee ballot is also fraud-proof. But it outweighs the idea of voting at a residence that I don't feel at ease in.
And, the shocking response that I was expecting from the employee at the Registrar's office was received from friends instead. Responses such as "That should be illegal!" or "You can't vote there!" These responses weren't just from Obama supporters or liberals, conservative friends who plan on voting for McCain also felt the same. As I'm sure others would, if they saw an "Obama-Biden" sign advertised at their neighborhood-polling place.
Other issues were brought up when I told Global Voices Online Managing Editor Solana Larsen. She questioned as to whether certain voters would feel comfortable going into someone's private residence to vote. She also questioned as to whether how wealthy some homes may be and whether they may intimidate certain low-income voters.
But the most prolific response was from my friend from Pennsylvania who recently moved to San Diego with her son. She told me that she had just mailed in her absentee ballot, as well. But wondered whether the 42 cents to send her ballot was even worth it when she could barely afford the gas it takes it drive to work. She told me that since graduating from college and the past few months of searching for a better paying job, was bringing her down to a level she had never dreamed of - that the past few months have shaped her outlook on the government.
"I mean, these people [presidential candidates] are spending millions on a campaign when I'm questioning as to whether I should spend 42 cents on a ballot that I'm not even sure will be counted," she said. "I've never expected my voice to be heard."
She questioned the American dream and commended me on my plan to get a teaching job in communist Vietnam.
That was the most prolific response I received on the voting process that we, Americans, know as democracy. I can just hope that the 42 cents I spent on sending my absentee ballot will be worth it and will be accounted for.