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Thursday, February 22

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Election 2012 Tue Mar 20 2012

Why I Almost Didn't Vote

IMAG2155.jpgI generally do not like primaries or caucuses.

My disdain for primary elections comes from living in Iowa. After turning 18 and moving back to Iowa--I had been living in Chicago on my 18th birthday--I obtained a new driver's license and registered as an independent. June arrived and I drove over to the University of Northern Iowa bookstore to vote.

I was asked if I wanted a Republican or a Democratic ballot.

There was a problem with this: There were some Republican candidates I wanted to vote for due to their stance on multiple issues and some Democratic candidates I wanted to vote for. Flummoxed, I said "Democratic" and voted with a party I did not belong to.

After moving to Illinois I registered to vote and still considered myself an independent. Historically, I have voted for Republican candidates in Illinois. OK, I voted for Judy Baar Topinka for state comptroller, but that still counts.

Since moving to Chicago I have participated in every election, including the runoff election that determined the Alderman of the 46th Ward, where I reside. This morning I begrudgingly participated in the primary election, trekking to my polling place at 7:45 in the morning.

There is only one reason why I felt like participating in the election and that was because I felt like I would have been a hypocrite to have not participated. I write about politics and feel very strongly about voting in America. I was raised in a politically active family that includes my maternal grandparents, one of whom usually had a GOP calendar in the kitchen, the other, an immigrant from Germany, had a robocall message from Laura Bush on her answering machine for many years. Perhaps I'm too young at the moment to get to the point where I can say that I won't vote, but for now there's a feeling in my gut that something would be horribly wrong with me if I didn't vote.

Like many people in America, including Ramsin, I am less than thrilled with the job of the Democrats. I am a strong believer in cautious optimism, which is what I practiced after President Obama's election, but yet I feel perpetually disappointed. Yes, Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed and the health care system in America will hopefully get less awful, but overall I feel disappointed.

In our own state and city, in the past year the Gov. Pat Quinn has screwed over public employees, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council has slashed funding for the public libraries and mental health clinics and the so-called "reform" aldermen have failed to stand up to the mayor. In fact, when the ward remapping occurred, the most vocal opponent of voting before the new map could be seen by the public was Ald. Robert Fioretti of the 2nd Ward, who has served in the City Council since 2007.

On a regular basis I lament the decision I made when voting for alderman of my ward because of how much he has let me down. The only promise he seems to have delivered on is that the Wilson Red Line station will be rehabbed. The problem with this lament is that he didn't seem nearly as bad of a decision as the opponent.

Politics in not only Illinois but also America has shifted to a decision between the lesser of two evils. Sure, we might not like one candidate, but the other candidate seems like they would be slightly less awful.

I could have voted for Obama, but why vote for someone who has disappointed me? The problem is that had I voted in the Iowa General Election in 2010, I would have voted for a gubernatorial candidate I am currently angry at because the governor at the time had really let me down. Maybe the only result for elections right now for some of us is to eventually feel disappointed, unless we voted for someone we lost.

The system with voting seems broken. Not that many seem to care or are cynical about the process. For many it seems like they could vote, but they would seem just as voiceless if they didn't vote.

This, unfortunately, is how I felt this morning when I woke up. I want representatives that have chutzpah and the guts to stick to their convictions, not those that will buckle to criticism or the feeling that they must conform.

Yet I exhaled deeply and filled in the arrows on my Democratic ballot this morning, doing what is my civic duty while feeling heavy-hearted.

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