Last night, I voted in the Massachusetts primary. It’s always engaging, though most fun when there’s a waiting line of chattering voters. Last night, in my town, there wasn’t. And that generated a running commentary from my visiting son, who has lived for years in countries where voting is difficult, dangerous, or just not possible. How, he asked as we voted, can people claim they care about how they’re governed, demand their views be taken seriously, and not bother to vote?
The United States trails its peers, ranking 26th out of 32 industrialized nations in participation. It’s not for lack of exhortations. Jesse Jackson raised the problem at Aretha Franklin’s recent funeral: “We have long lines to celebrate death, and short lines for voting,” he admonished the audience.
Some point to structural barriers, or doubt a vote can change anything. Yet in Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley trounced a 10-term incumbent of the Seventh Congressional District in the Democratic primary, a major upset that positions her to become the first African-American woman to represent the state in the US House (no Republican is running).
Why? Her supporters showed up.
One of them was college student Elisabeth Bastien. When a volunteer heard she was casting her first vote, she announced it excitedly to the polling station. Everyone clapped. Ms. Bastien loved the experience, from seeing candidates to hearing voters opine: “It’s cool to feel part of a group that can implement change.”
Now to our stories for today, including a deeper look at the challenges of getting voters to the polls in poor and underserved communities, and a bright spot in war-torn South Sudan: girls and the sport of boruboru.