I used to Not be a Voter.
“Voting is based on what I, Stacie Stine, care about. I don’t have to be a genius to know what I care about.”
I used to not be a voter.
The first election I was eligible to vote in, I didn’t vote. Partly because I felt like voting was for people far more mature than I, and partly because I didn’t really understand if and how voting could affect me. But mainly because I was afraid of the unknown that comes with voting (where to do it, when to do it, and who to vote for).
An honest thought about myself is that sometimes I think I am stupid. I’ve heard there are a lot of people in this world who sometimes believe the lie they are stupid. Well, Hi, I’m Stacie, sometimes I think I’m not qualified for things because I’m stupid. This. Is. Not. True.
On a crazier honest note— I used to think I wasn’t smart enough to make a well-informed voting decision. Have you ever felt this way?
I thought I had to understand everything about politics, and, defeated, I felt like I would be seen as a fraud, mess up voting, and they’d find out I didn’t really know anything about politics at all. For four years in high school I had even participated in mock Student Government at the capitol in Austin, Texas… while I somewhat understood how the government worked, I didn’t understand how my opinion could matter. Today, on social media, for various reasons, I see friends say that our votes don’t matter, but I guess that’s where we can (hopefully kindly and with love) disagree.
Why I felt like voting wasn’t for me:
In high school and college, I didn’t know how to have an opinion. I was afraid if I had an opinion it would make someone out there angry with me, so it was better to not have an opinion about political things. Talking politics meant potentially making people unhappy or uncomfortable, and for a people pleaser, those things weren’t worth talking about.
I also wasn’t sure how to make an informed and educated decision. I knew who my parents were voting for. I knew who my government teacher was voting for. I knew most of my friends weren’t voting because they couldn’t or weren’t interested in it. I wasn’t sure how to make my own voting decisions. I wasn’t sure how to communicate with anyone about it.
I also dreaded talking politics or thinking about politics— I came from a background where I felt bored and confused listening to political news on NPR, and frozen in fear watching news on terrorists and war on Fox News. Couldn’t my parents, whom I respected, and considered my opinion to be similar, just represent my vote? Weren’t they way more educated about the whole political arena than I was? Why did I need to vote if they were going to vote in favor of the candidate I would most likely vote for anyway?
Here are a few truths I’ve come to believe since my college days:
1) Voting is based on what I, Stacie Stine, care about. I don’t have to be a genius to know what I care about. What’s changed me the most is considering what voting really is for me. Voting is taking a step back from life, considering who and what I value, and seeing who I think could be an okay (not perfect) fit for a job that is probably very challenging to have. I care about people of different ethnicities and socio-economic statuses than myself. I care about what’s happening in my local community. I care about people being treated equally. I care about how certain laws impact my small-business. I care, so I vote for people and ideas that care about similar things. I’ve learned that people are voting on either side of things, because they care. Somehow I hadn’t grasped this before.
2) I have different opinions than my parents. This might seem like a no-brainer, but instead of asking how they would vote (or how my government teacher or political science professor would vote), I asked myself what seemed most important to me. What’s most important to me, is somewhat the same as my parents, but definitely not entirely. Voting, actually, is fascinating to me because I can vote so differently from my spouse, family, and close friends— and still maintain those relationships. While it still might feel uncomfortable to talk politics, it doesn’t have to be a shit show. In a lot of ways, it’s sharing what we care about— and I’ve never stopped someone from sharing with me what they care about.
3) I don’t have to understand all the political talk to vote. I can put in an hour or two of research to understand what makes different issues big or small. I can take quizzes about what I value and believe and those quizzes can point me in a direction to help me see which candidates beliefs and values, and agendas I line (somewhat) up with (and then I get to research those people a bit and make an informed decision about whether or not I’ll actually vote for them). The internet has been an informative game changer for me. Type in “where to vote in my city”. Type in “take a quiz to know how to vote” and there’s helpful information at your fingertips.
4) Taking time to do this might be the hardest part. Someone like me who is positively lazy can just say “I’ll vote some other election”. Due to my skin color and economic status, that’s an easy thing to say and do, but I’ve come to believe that’s not okay (If you’ve never read Waking Up White, it talks a lot about things white people can casually do because of privilege… it’s a challenging and convicting read!). Voting impacts myself and others. That’s why voting in every election is important to me now.
So we voted. And I’m telling you why I was who I was, and why I am who I am now. If you think differently, that’s okay. And I’m not even opposed to talking about why we think differently from one another. But I felt it was important to share what has come to be of importance to me.