November 4, 2020

Making People More Determined to Vote

ballot box

I have tried to vote in every election since I turned 18. There have only been a couple times when I wasn't able to do so. I was once too sick to drag myself to the polls, and there was another time when I had just moved and did not have the chance to do what I needed to be eligible to vote in the state to which I had moved. Otherwise, it has been rare for me to miss the opportunity to vote. I figure that informing myself and participating in the democratic process are vital parts of what it means to be a citizen.

This was the first year I can remember where I was not sure I would show up to vote. The COVID-19 pandemic is raging locally, and I've been so careful that hanging out with a bunch of people who wouldn't be wearing masks was not an exciting prospect. Besides, I live in a deep red state that is going for Trump no matter what. But even if my vote for president won't count, there was a Senate race and three ballot measures, which is something we almost never see here. In the end, this atheist voter masked up and showed up to vote yesterday because the state of Mississippi does everything it can do to make it as difficult as possible to vote (e.g., no early voting, almost nobody qualifies for absentee ballots). I recognize that most of my votes make no difference here, and I do not expect that to change this year. But you know what? If they are going to try that hard to prevent me from voting, I'm damn sure going to vote.

Based on everything I've seen in the time I've lived in Mississippi I'm doubtful that there is much hope for Mississippi. The people here do not seem inclined to try anything new but prefer to continue clinging to religious and political traditions that have not served them well. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to give up. For as long as I am here, I plan to keep trying. What does that look like? I focus on the day-to-day stuff. Maybe I'll be the first atheist some Christian meets, and I won't be quite as horrible as their pastor said I would be. Maybe I'll be the first liberal some conservative will encounter who will listen with the goal of understanding their point of view instead of angrily dismissing it.

And yes, part of what not giving up means is continuing to show up and vote even though I recognize that doing so rarely affects the outcome. I know that there was at least one vote against a state flag that says "In God We Trust" in 2020. While that's not nearly enough, it may have to do for now.