The Joy of Voting

In a powerful country with powerfully divided political opinions, voter turnout statistics nevertheless paint a picture of apathy. This is even more pronounced in primary races and contests for state and local offices. On the Vineyard, the foolishness of not turning up has been demonstrated lately by the tied vote in Tisbury’s beer and wine question, where a handful more votes in favor could have changed the town’s course. Nationally, this country has had to depend on the Supreme Court to rule on a Presidential vote, so close was the 2000 contest. Yet so many people whose lives and livelihoods will be altered by the outcome still do not mark a ballot.

But let’s set aside the good sense in voting. Instead, try to take pleasure in it.

In some countries, where voting is compulsory, communities often turn voting days into neighborhood fetes. School groups hold bake sales, kids set up lemonade stands, and in urban areas where there might be lines, entrepreneurial restaurants rove around selling snacks. Polling booths tend to be open on a Saturday, so most folks won’t have to fit voting into their already delicately balanced home and work schedules.

Then there are countries where voting itself is truly vibrant. In February, The New York Times published a photograph of collective joy on a street in Pakistan following the country’s parliamentary elections. People waved flags — the scene looked like a crowded parade — and one figure in the center, arms outstretched like a modern dancer, appeared to be channelling everyone’s ebullient emotion, though the paper said many voters were fearful of violence.

We pay for every leader we elect. We should each try to get a little payback at the polling booth, by finding some of that transcendence that comes from being part of something larger than any one of us alone. Cast your vote in today’s primary election and enjoy.