Don't be hatin' on the non-voters

I'm seeing a lot of people talking about judging non-voters, claiming that they have no excuse to NOT vote, and no reason to complain.

I used to think that.

I was a huge supporter of voting back in high school, when things seemed simpler. I organized the Scholastic Student Vote in the 2004 election for area homeschoolers. I also won two bonds from the newspaper for winning two prizes--one for the political cartoon about voting, and another for an essay. I was kind of a FUCK YEAH 'MURICA kind of teen (except a little less stereotypically redneck), and I have no doubt that 9/11 impacted that early belief.

Then 2008 rolled around--my first election, and my first Presidential election. I was all geared up to vote. And yet I didn't.

I followed the issues and the politicians closely, so it wasn't apathy. And I made the conscious decision to never vote party-line--I wanted to evaluate each person on their own merits.

Yet my family and the homeschool and Catholic communities seemed to equate Republicanism with being a true Christian or a true Catholic--conflating politics and religion. They may argue otherwise, but that's kind of what happens when one is a single-issue voter. You know, the big A word. Abortion. That was pretty much all that mattered.

And I just couldn't bring myself to vote SOLELY on the issue.

For one thing, I didn't really care for Sarah Palin. McCain was okayish, but his running partner was a disaster. And Obama didn't seem so evil, after all. It's strange--during the election season, Obama seemed to be just absolutely horrible, too liberal, and too happy to abort babies. (it's okay, you can laugh.). Then as time went on--I actually felt like he wouldn't be a bad choice after all.

Maybe he's not entirely pro-life by my then conservative standards (and damn, I was migrating over to moderate at that point, and felt like I was a flaming liberal compared to all my friends and families and acquaintances, and got into some Facebook arguments with people. ) However, I thought that maybe, just maybe, we needed to focus on other issues, too.

By the time November rolled around, I wanted to vote for President Obama. However, I couldn't.

My parents expected me to vote like they did. They filled out their early ballots and I heard their thought processes and rationale. I knew who I was supposed to vote for. And I knew they would ask me who I voted for.

If I voted independently of them, I feared repercussions. My mom wouldn't be too bad, I don't think, except she'd probably drag me off to confession for perpetuating the murder of unborn babies, but I feared my dad's rage, disguised as paternal concern. I feared I would get yet another silent treatment. I feared his unpredictability.

I couldn't lie, either. I mean, I could vote Obama and say I voted for McCain, but I had a mortal fear of lying (to the point of scrupulosity--a sort of religious OCD).

So, when caught between a rock and a hard place--I didn't vote. I kept thinking about it, I nearly did, but I decided against voting. Partway through the day, my mom texted and asked if I voted--she was very concerned about Obama's poll ratings--so I told her I didn't. She was disappointed.

That night, I was watching the election results at my now-husband's and his family's house. It was taking a really long time to get the results, so I texted my mom, asking permission to stay out later so I can hopefully catch the results. Her response? She was baffled I was even interested in the results when I didn't vote.

Of course I was interested--but she didn't know or understand about how my hands were tied.

Obama won. I was ambivalent. I wanted to be glad, but I also felt the obligation to react negatively--so I just played it cool on Facebook. I congratulated him on his victory, and left it at that.

Also, in Nebraska, the electoral vote could be split--and my area turned blue while the rest of Nebraska was red. I knew my parents would think it was my fault. The lack of my conservative vote was responsible for turning the city blue. (and what if they knew I was thinking about voting for Obama? It would be even MORE my fault.)

After the election, I purposefully kept busy with school and work--leaving home before anyone woke up, and coming back home after everyone went to bed, just to let my parents calm down so I don't get the brunt of their "concern." (read: my dad's rage.) As awkward as it was, it would have been worse if I voted according to my conscience and values.

That's my "I didn't vote" story. I didn't vote because of a toxic home environment where I feared abuse.

Certainly, some people don't vote because they're apathetic or feel lazy or whatever--but some people can't vote because of extenuating circumstances.

So, don't go automatically hatin' on the non-voters.

Filed under: Abuse

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