Thursday, September 20, 2018

Making Bud's vote count

Bud's been coming with me to the voting booth since he was born. Throughout his life, I've scheduled my trips to the polls to make sure that he could join me. I've talked to him about voting, about why we vote, and about who and what I vote for. As I do with other values I hold, I have tried to instill in Bud the importance of active, thoughtful citizenship.

When Bud was 16, we went to the polls and on the way out, a volunteer gave him a "Future Voter" sticker, which he wore proudly.

It stopped me in my tracks. I realized that in less than two years, Bud would be 18 and old enough to vote, but I knew nothing about the laws governing disability and voting. I understood that at 18, Bud would not likely have the same understanding of the issues as a typical 18 year old. I also knew that the outcome of elections would affect his life as much as - and, arguably, even more than - anyone else's. I started to research.

I learned that in my state, there are no restrictions that would limit Bud's ability to vote. Last year, as his eighteenth birthday approached, we started talking about voting. We talked about political parties. I created a series of cards that explained, in terms Bud could understand, the differences between Democrats and Republicans. We went through them issue by issue, and Bud identified which perspective matched his beliefs in each area. From there, he decided to affiliate with one party over the other.

A week after he turned 18, we went to town hall and he became a registered voter in what was a surprisingly quick and easy process. And then we waited for the next election.

As it turned out, it was a town election without many contested races. It seemed like it would be a good trial run, but on the day of the election, we were inundated with the kind of snowstorm that made it impossible to get out of the driveway. Bud's first voting experience would have to wait.

This month, our state held its primary election. Again, not many races were contested, but we talked about the one that was, and discussed the differences between the candidates who were running. Bud decided who to vote for. We got a sample ballot and he practiced filling it out. I researched our state's laws about people who needed assistance with voting, and printed them out, so that if Bud needed assistance and any election officials needed clarification, I would be able to provide it.

We were ready.

We were ready, that is, up until it was time to leave the house on election day. From there, the plan unraveled. I won't go into detail, except to say that Bud was overwhelmed and it became clear that forcing the issue in the moment would not be good for anyone. So, on primary day, Brian and I voted, and Bud had ice cream instead.

Then I went home and researched some more. I learned that though the rules in our state regarding absentee voting are restrictive, having a disability that limits your ability to vote in person is a legitimate reason to request an absentee ballot. The next day, Bud and I filled out his request form and we put it in the mail. Then I went to amazon and ordered a roll of "I Voted" stickers, which will cover us for the next 300 elections.

Once again, we are ready. Bring on the midterms.

And one other note - I share all of this with Bud's permission, and remind you that when it comes to sharing information about his life, Bud's vote is the only one that counts.