I was seven years old when Bill Clinton was elected president. I lounged groggily on the end of a couch with my mom and brother and family friends and I remember my eyes half closing and re-opening as they results trickled in. The adults were nervous and excited and drank wine and talked throughout the night. My mother assured me that it was okay to fall asleep, but I desperately wanted to stay up. I didn't know the details of what either candidate stood for or what was at stake. But I knew how much everyone in that room cared about the election. I have the strongest memory of seeing tears of joy dance from my mom's eyes when Clinton won and I understood at that moment how important it was to have an opinion. How important it was to vote.
Today marks the third time I have been allowed to vote in a presidential election. I couldn't sleep last night. Nerves and excitement ran laps through my bedroom, poking my temples and pulling my ponytail. I watched four episodes of HBO's Veep and tossed and turned. I finally slipped into some version of sleep and woke up to my alarm early this morning. I stood in line for 45 minutes at my polling center in West Hollywood and finally reached the table where they hand you your ballot. And that was when everything stopped.
My name was not on the register. I showed them my California driver's license and handed them my official sample ballot where my polling place was printed clearly in black ink. They then handed me the ugliest pink envelope and had me fill out my information. They said the horrible words "provisional ballot" and politely told me to step to the side. After I asked a dozen questions clarifying that my vote would count, I punched my ballot and walked out with my head down.
I have since confirmed that I was correctly registered to vote in West Hollywood and that I showed up to the correct polling location. I have called the Secretary of State's Voter Hotline as well as spoken directly with the Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/Country Clerk and have been told that my name is in the system and that I should have been on that roster.
But the feeling of shame that's slowly creeping beneath my skin is palpable. I have been hounding friends all week to be sure everyone knows where to vote, what the different California props are about, and assuring them that no matter whom they choose, it's essential to vote. I believe in it as strongly as some do in their religion.
The knot in my stomach has not gone away. I am told my vote will be counted within 28 days after the election. They assured me that it still does count. But tonight when I watch the election results -- on a couch, with my family, with food and wine -- I know that the choices I made today will not be included. If the candidate I voted for wins, I will not be part of that victory. It feels like I have been shut out. I wasn't picked for the kickball team. I was told I couldn't come to the party. And it's a party I have been looking forward to for months, have been reading about and shaping my opinions about. It's the best fucking party ever.
UPDATE: Upon further investigation, the LA County Registrar's office determined that my name was printed on the roster. The mix-up was an error on the poll worker's part, but because my provisional ballot was already put in the box, there is nothing that can be done about it now. They apologized.
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