As I sit here listening to election results on the west coast, I’m reminded that it is both privilege and a responsibility to vote. I didn’t always feel that way – as a working class kid, I was never really convinced that my vote “counted”. I’m still not sure one vote makes a significant difference, but I do know that I owe it to my incarcerated students to vote knowledgeably and responsibly on issues that concern us all. And I owe it to my on-campus students to set an example of civic responsibility.
Chris and I wrote a small paper last year on “The Price and Promise of Citizenship,” in which we argued the United States should extend the vote to non-incarcerated felons. My favorite critique/response said that we were too modest in our goals and didn’t take the argument far enough. I have several former “inside” students out in the community now – released from prison and building new lives for themselves. I hope they voted in this election and made sure they had a voice in local politics for the first time in a long time, perhaps for the first time ever.
In Oregon, we vote entirely by mail. Although the mail-in vote is definitely convenient, I miss the camaraderie of waiting in line at my local polling place for my moment in the booth. I miss feeling the connection to the community, but I vote anyway, taking my civic duty seriously. When you are fortunate enough to have a voice, it is both a privilege and responsibility to use it.