I'm going to vote for the first time ever. Our local library is doing early voting, so at some point this week, Chris and I will traipse over there and flex our civic muscles by doing our civic duty.
Even I'm shocked that I've never voted before. I was months too young when it was Bush versus Gore, my brain shorted out when Kerry ran against Bush, and most people can't be bothered to vote in interim elections. I'm not a tremendously opinionated American citizen (not to say that I don't have opinions, but we all know that "opinionated voter" is synonymous with "loud, obnoxious blowhard"--perhaps a better term is "informed voter"), but I am fascinated by politics. And I'm glad to have the ability to be fascinated.
Earlier this year, anyone who was paying attention (everyone but the majority of Americans) saw what happened with the Zimbabwe elections. The "wrong result" ended in a contested election, followed by months of violence against the opposition's supporters, followed by the opposition dropping out of the race to halt the bloodshed. The opposition leader was basically exiled to South Africa. Power-sharing talks between the two parties just collapsed. Voters in Zimbabwe have a very distinctive way of marking that someone has already voted, and all the pictures of Zimbabweans with fingers dipped in red dye was downright ominous. You may say that the government doesn't represent you, that the system is unfair, whatever; however, when seen in the light of Zimbabweans defiantly standing up to Robert Mugabe despite threats, violence, torture, rape, murder ... well, those words ring false.
So I'm voting for the first time this year because, although I don't have strong opinions on a lot of issues, I enjoy having a real choice.