Election Day

It was a nice sunny day today for the elections. Sabs walked out with me this morning, bright and early just before the polls opened, carrying Vic with him to go vote. We both took advantage of the presence of a registration booth several months ago outside of the grocery store, so we’re finally registered voters in the City of Berkeley, County of Alameda, State of California.

I have to say, that voting in Berkeley is a lot more interesting than voting in Virginia was, even if I was pretty annoyed by all the campaign calls toward the end. After all, in Virginia we didn’t have measures on the ballot about whether or not non-organic coffee should be banned from sale in coffee shops within the city limits! All kidding and frivolous measures aside though, it’s been an interesting voting season for me. I did a fair amount of research, most of it online, a large portion from my voter’s booklet so that I’d be more familiar with the candidates and what they stand for than I have been in the past.

The first time I was eligible to vote, was in the 1992 election. I was 18, starry-eyed and idealistic. I voted straight Democrat right down the whole ballot, except for some local races where there wasn’t a liberal candidate to vote for. Back then I was convinced that Clinton was going to be the best thing since sliced bread for America.

I missed out on the 1994 elections because I was studying in Europe and didn’t realize I could fill out an absentee ballot. I missed out on the next election in the haze of moving to DC after graduation, then voted locally in the rather bland race in Virginia in 1998. Moving seems to really throw me for a loop and I seem to keep moving in election years, so I missed out on the 2000 elections too because we hadn’t registered in California yet and had forgotten to get absentee ballots for Virginia.

This year I’m feeling pretty happy about actually being on the ball and ready for election day. Both Sabs and I consulted our sample ballots early, filled them out and were ready to go by today. I didn’t have a long wait in line at my polling place and since I had my ballot pre-filled, it took me a matter of minutes to interact with the spiffo new touch-screen voting system, and voila, my votes are off in the electronic ether being processed.

I don’t talk about politics much here, usually, because they can be such a hot-button topic, and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t usually devote much of my brain-space to the finer details. But this year, something is different. Partly, it’s because I feel so much at home in Berkeley, I feel as if I actually have a stake in how things are run in this town. It’s also partly a reaction to 9-11 for me. The tragic events of last year, have been something of a match under my butt, getting me in gear over things I’ve always meant to get into gear over, but always relegated to “some day”. There’s also the parent factor going on — I’m responsible for Vic’s well-being as well as my own, and voting, especially on things like staking out land for city parks and school funding measures are very relevant to his future.

Moreso than the State-level stuff, where the race for Governor for example, is kind of blah and annoying, it’s the local stuff that’s got me going. I read closely, the text of the measures on the ballot, including the crazy coffee one (which actually has some basis in supporting free trade and stuff like that, but is still pretty durn ridiculous), and considered how those measures and the people up for office would effect me and the town I live in.

We had a lot to vote on, waterfront preservation, transfer taxes on the sale of property, funding for a new animal shelter, a tax to make a fund to help make streets safer/better engineered for traffic, new building height-limits, whether or not to seismically retrofit City Hall and a number of other pertinent issues.

After I was done checking electronic boxes and clickec “Cast Ballot” I felt really good. It’s nice to feel involved, to feel like I’m part of a community. I haven’t felt that way in a long time. It’s good to feel at home at last.