Twenty-sixteen was the first year that I was old enough to vote in a US presidential election, and I didn’t vote. I was living at college an hour away from home and my polling location. I hadn’t paid close enough attention to the deadline to request an absentee ballot, and I don’t think I even checked to be sure I was still registered. (I believe I was registered as a Republican at the time because I thought I was supposed to be, not like I knew what that meant.) Like many people, I didn’t like either of the candidates. I didn’t have much motivation to choose, and I didn’t understand why voting third party is ineffective.
Whenever I would be reminded to vote, all I would feel was guilt but not motivation to actually do something about it. I would have had to convince my boyfriend to drive me to the town where we lived, and the entire ordeal would have taken upwards of three hours out of our day with driving alone. I probably had musical rehearsal, or band rehearsal, or homework, or all three. The last four years have taught me that whatever it was that I was doing, there is no question that it was not as important as voting.
I would be the obvious one to blame in this situation, but you also could have blamed my boyfriend for not driving me, Grove City College for planning so many events and activities on Election Day, and you could have blamed the people around me for not doing their absolute best to make sure that I knew everything I had to do and that I knew why, even though I didn’t want to, I would have had to vote for Hillary Clinton to save the country from the impending doom.
This year, I refused to make the same mistake again. It would have been much harder to avoid, given that I saw so much more encouragement from everyone around me telling me to vote, from nearly every YouTuber I follow, to my news sources, my friends, my workplace, and more. But I knew we needed more than that to get everyone to vote. I didn’t want anyone to be like I had been.
Needless to say, this year I tried my hardest to make sure that everyone I knew was voting and they knew why they had to… especially since most people I know live in Pennsylvania.
Twenty-twenty was the year that I decided that if I’m proud of something I do, then I don’t hide it, and if I’m not proud of it then I leave it behind. I’m not going to lie: even though voting by mail here in Pittsburgh was incredibly easy, I’m SO proud of myself and of my husband. I wish so badly that I could show this outcome to our 2016 selves and say, “See? Do you realize that your vote holds so much power and that each of us has the power to change an election?”
I’m proud that I voted for President-elect Joe Biden and (even more-so) Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. I’m proud of myself, of my state of Pennsylvania, and of the other 75,028,323+ Americans who also voted in the same way. I’m especially in awe of the Black women who led the way in mobilizing voters and make their voices heard.
We chose democracy, we chose equality, we chose peace, and we chose science. History will be proud of us.