Proposition 1: I'll bring the loud, you bring the vote
Fewer than one hundred years ago, I would not have been allowed to vote.
More than half of Colby's student body would have been barred from the polling stations, kept from voicing their opinion on important decisions because they weren't viewed as citizens. Good thing activists worked for decades to claim the vote as a right for women as well as men. Now, half the population doesn't even have to be barred from voting: their own laziness and apathy will keep them away.
When a bit more than 50 percent of registered voters in Maine turned out this past Tuesday, people were shocked. This was a record high, they exclaimed, we'd only been expecting 35 percent! On non-Presidential election years, voter interest slumps extraordinarily, dropping dramatically from over 70 percent in Maine in 2008, for example.
One year ago, election day was crazy. Obama posters and stickers and T-shirts covered walls and bags and hundreds of activists' bodies, showing the world that HOPE (in big blue block letters) was the change we believed in. And at Colby, there was a lot of hope. The election was discussed in classes, argued about in the street, written about in the Echo. Don't get me wrong, every once in a while someone mentioned Sarah Palin and whoever it was she was running with, but that's beside the point. Political ideology aside, students at Colby were involved, passionate and loud.
At Vote Louder, an event designed to make the voting process easy and accessible, where volunteers drive students to the polls and provide information on the issues to be decided, student interest was active and in your face. Tents were set up on Dana Lawn, kids with megaphones shouted at passerby, live and recorded music blared from the surrounding area and students came in hordes to vote for their new president, many for the first time.
This year, however, there was no tent. The handful of volunteers, instead of emerging from a widespread variety of students as they had the year before, were mostly recognizable active members of the Colby Bridge and a couple of No on 1 campaign workers. That's not to say that those involved weren't passionate and loud. Zach Ezor and Danny Hoshino cheerfully changed the words of Phantom Planet's "California" to "Vote louder / No on 1," and voters chalked their names into the pavement in front of the Coffeehouse. And in case the e-mails, posters and tabling in Pulver hadn't gotten everyone's attention, there was a guy in a banana suit screaming ridiculous slogans into a megaphone: "I'll bring the loud, you bring the vote!" and "If you can hear me, then you're not in class. If you're not in class, then you have no excuse not to vote!"
Looking around, I noticed no lack of excitement and determination, but these elusive voters were unmistakably absent. Without Obama's face plastered everywhere as a rallying cry against the indignities of a former presidential regime, it seemed as if most people lost interest in the democratic process.
No, the president wasn't up for election, but in his place, something controversial and vitally significant to our generation was on the ballot. Question 1 successfully and regrettably defeated an attempt to remove the second-class status from gay citizens, which would have given them more than one thousand privileges associated with marriage (including social security, taxation and immigration liberties, among others).
Out of the half million voters, the difference between yes and no on 1 was only five percent--about 30,000 votes. Yes, this sounds like a lot, but it's nothing compared to the number of registered voters in Maine who didn't cast a ballot (which, actually, is also around five percent of the non-voters). While I recognize that I'm preaching to a choir of predominantly liberal Colby students who still gaze lovingly up at their framed Obama posters over their beds at night, contentedly tracing those blue block letters before they drift off to sleep, I'm certain there exists a minority of students who didn't even take the time to vote this past Tuesday.
Some were from Massachusetts or California, but didn't request an absentee ballot and Maine's same-day voter registration was just too simple and convenient for them to take advantage of. Others hadn't put in the effort to think about the issues and so didn't want to make a decision on gay marriage when they didn't know how they felt about it. One student responded to my invitation to drive them to the polls during Vote Louder by saying they'd probably vote "against you guys anyway," so why try to convince them to vote? Or, you know, it was a Friday afternoon, so these students were too drunk to vote or too busy planning how to get drunk later to take the time out to get downtown (the fact that election day was on Tuesday wouldn't change this problem--they were drunk Tuesday, too).
The unfortunate truth is that others fought for our right to vote and some of us can't even be bothered to return the right of equality to those who need it. While some of them might have "voted against me," this also is their right or, in some people's opinion, their duty. But more importantly, the change I believed in was thwarted by the privileged people who are allowed to marry whom they please (provided these spouses have something opposite in their pants) and yet don't care enough to fill in a tiny empty bubble that would allow other citizens the same economical and social rights marriage permits only certain people to enjoy. In most cases, this wasn't because their religion opposes it or they fear schools will force homosexuality upon their children, but because the guy in the banana suit wasn't loud enough to get them out from in front of their Xbox or Gossip Girls reruns on a Friday afternoon. Or to hold off on the Natty until after 8 p.m. on Tuesday.