On voter privilege

Last night was hectic. I had a great weekend with family visiting and a fun work event Monday night, but that meant chores piled up. I got home from work at 7:30 and had to get my laundry to the laundromat before "last wash" at 8:30. I gathered everything up, stuffed it in the bag, stuffed that in the granny cart and set about the careful process of bumping it down two flights of stairs and across three long blocks. While the laundry was washing I made a quick trip to the grocery store, something else I hadn't had a chance to do over the weekend. I made it back just in time to transfer my clothes to the dryer, and while they were drying I realized - I forgot to vote!

I'm not sure how. Every time I checked out Facebook or Twitter during the day I was accosted by dozens of reminders, both in text and image, in the form of friends' "I voted!" stickers.

By that time it was 8:30 and I knew the polls stayed open until 9:00. Lucky for me, my polling place is literally a block from my apartment, so I strolled in at 8:34 and was out by 8:44, in time to eat some dinner before picking up the laundry.

When I got home, as I stood looking at the heap of clean, dry clothes on my bed (and my cat rummaging around in them for a good place to nap), I realized that what I'd just done was nothing compared to what some people go through to make it to the polls. And it was really nothing compared to what keeps a lot of people from voting at all.

For a lot of people (at least, judging by my Facebook and Twitter feeds) it's a no-brainer: vote or die. Or at least, vote or be ridiculed on social media and prohibited from complaining about the government.

But, in reality, there are a lot of reasons not to vote that I don't think most people ranting on social media think about. What if you work three or four jobs and simply don't get a chance to get to the polls?

"Absentee ballots!" I can hear the chorus and see the eye rolls.

But what if you had four kids, three jobs, no car, and little family to help you out? Would "making the time" to read up on electoral issues and requesting, filling out and sending back an absentee ballot be a high priority? It may seem like an extreme example, but it's a reality for a lot of people in this country. And it's only one of a myriad of things that might keep someone from voting even if they want to.

To call my night "hectic" was a vast overstatement. I had virtually no barriers to voting. As with many other privileges, this can make it hard to understand why someone else might not make the same decisions we do. And especially with so much at stake – equal pay, access to abortions, environmental protection, accessible health care – passions can take over.

But before you ask someone if they voted, and if not, why not, consider that it's not so simple for everyone. And if you do vote, consider giving your support to candidates who may help fix some of the underlying issues that prevent people from reaching the polls: unemployment, weak education and health care systems, transportation infrastructure problems and affordable housing shortages.