Last week I filled out my mail-in ballot for Highland City Council, put it in the mailbox, and felt a great sense of satisfaction for two reasons.
First, voting is not just my right, but also a duty. While city council elections may not be filled with intrigue and scandal — thank heavens — it really does make a difference who wins, and I am part of that process.
Second, as one of the main goals of the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University is to have more gender balance in leadership positions throughout the state, seeing a ballot with several strong female candidates feels like progress.
My voting memories go way back. My dad would leave early for work so he could cast his ballot, but it was trickier for my mom who stayed home with small kids. She and her friends solved this problem by swapping children and making sure everyone had transportation to the polls. Watching her make such an effort instilled in me that while voting was not always convenient, it was always important.
Free and fair elections are the hallmark of a democracy. In 1607, one of the first orders of business for the colonists at Jamestown was to vote on who would be their council president. And we have been demanding the expansion of voter rights ever since. Nearly one-third of our Constitutional amendments focus on voting rights. Across the globe, voters show their ink-stained fingers with pride, representing their commitment to voting. But we often take this for granted. In the 2016 presidential election, 93.9% of Utah’s population was eligible to vote, but just 71% were registered, and only 62.7% cast a ballot. Every vote counts.
Many people now do as I do and request mail-in ballots, which can accommodate travel schedules, living out of state for school, the unpredictability of work and/or kids and other reasons. It has been a blessing to me with my schedule, but when I can, I still go in person. Honestly, it gives me goosebumps to feel our democracy at work here in Highland, Utah. I feel a reverence in that space — even when it is noisy with parents bringing kids or people laughing and talking while waiting in line. When I step up to cast my ballot, I know it is both an honor and an obligation. Just during my lifetime, many women and men have lost their lives in service to our country so we could have freedom, and the right to vote is an amazing freedom that so many people in the world still do not have. Being a resident of Utah comes with responsibilities, and one of them is to care about who serves in political roles and to vote for those who have integrity.
Utah women claim with pride that we were the first to vote. And I am proud that as of 2018, we are ranked 11th in the nation for voter turnout for women. Election Day is just around the corner. Vote, because you can, and because you care.