I have fond memories of going with my parents to watch them vote. I loved the mechanical voting machines they had in New York, with the sliding privacy curtain controlled by the same big lever that recorded your votes and the dozens of small switches for individual candidates. As a child I dreamed of the day that I’d be old enough to vote and pull those levers myself. Sadly, I only got to do it once (or maybe twice) because when I reached voting age I was out of state at college and voting by absentee ballot. Then I moved to a state with paper ballots, initially the hole-punching kind and now the fill-in-the-oval kind. Now at least I can appreciate that those mechanical machines were more prone to error and fraud than the ones based on paper ballots.
With my local voting authority moving to all-mail voting next February, I’m faced with the realization that next Tuesday will probably be the last time in my life that I go to a polling place to vote. I’ve had the option to vote entirely by mail for years (“ongoing absentee voting” in local parlance) and yet I’ve made the choice whenever possible to make the journey to the polling place. To me, the act of voting is a participatory effort and the ritual involved in making a journey to be with other community members matters. So while I’ve never been nostalgic about waiting on line at the bank with my parents and I’m happy to be able to shop online whenever possible, I approach the coming election with a measure of regret that has nothing to do with what’s on the ballot.