My Vote Was Stolen

By James Colten 11-06-2012
South Photography/Gallo images/Contributor Getty Images

Nelson mandela votes for the first time in his life. South Photography/Gallo images/Contributor Getty Images

What does it feel like to have your vote stolen?

It sucks. It feels like someone literally let all the air out of my balloon animal.

Late in September, I happily filled out my absentee ballot request form to the DuPage Election Commission. Illinois had a new measure that allows for anyone to request an absentee ballot. I expected for there to be a delay.

So I waited.

And I waited some more.

And I waited just until I was so uncomfortable that I called my election commission’s office.

After navigating the electronic menus, I got a nice woman on the phone. I explained to her my situation, and she quickly found my absentee ballot status.

“We put it in the mail October 2.”

I was stunned. I figured they had to have screwed up. Washington addresses are tough to figure out, after all.

Me: “Did you have the suite number correct?”

DEC: “200?”

Me: “Yep … Quadrant?”

DEC: “Northwest.”

Me: “Yep … Zip code? Was the stamp in the right place? Did you use the correct amount of postage? Did you accidentally send it to the Philippines?”

The DuPage Election Commission in the end had my address correct. But my ballot was still missing. And unless the United States Postal Service tampered with my ballot, I could only conclude one thing:

My vote was stolen.

I recognize voting as one of the key aspects of what it means to live in a democracy. One person, one vote. It felt like a punch to the gut. I ashamedly admit that my reaction to the person who stole my vote would, initially at least, be violent and abrasive before it would be non-violent and spiritually holistic.

Voting isn’t just a choice. It’s not something that you suffer through. You do it with your conscience, and frankly, with your whole body (if you don’t think it’s a whole body experience, ask someone who stood in line six or seven hours to vote). Have you ever seen pictures of first-time voters? Go ahead and Google Mandela voting for the first time. Read about the history of the Fifteenth Amendment or the Nineteenth Amendment, or the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The right to vote hasn’t always been a right.

And then I found out I wasn’t the only one.

Earlier today, we posted a poem: “Jesus didn’t vote today.”

But Jesus was also perfect, and his humanness was not defined sociologically. Humans have oppressed other humans in many ways, one of which is denying the person in a lesser position of power the opportunity to vote.

Maybe this is my rite of passage as a white male from God: that I have to go through disenfranchisement in order to sympathize with my brothers and sisters who have been historically oppressed — that my vote has to be stolen in order for me to feel the pain of being voice —

I do believe that you are allowed to vote your conscience, but I don’t bel —

James Colten is the Assistant to the CEO at Sojourners. You can follow h —

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