I think I was 12 when we studied the democratic process in our eighth grade social studies class. We learned about the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government. We learned about the Electoral College; and we learned about voting. In those days it was harder to get to vote. There were residency requirements, and a voter had to be 21 and, in Cincinnati, have registered at least six months prior to the election.
When registration time came for me, my father took me to some office. There were whispered conversations. My father finally said to me, I can fill out the form for you, but you have to sign it. "Can she write?" the clerk said loud enough for the whole room to hear. There was that awful silence and my face turned burning red. I knew everyone was staring at us.
"We're not used to dealing with these people," the clerk continued "but the law says they can vote so I guess she can."
I bit my lip, determined not to cry. Damn you, I thought (that was the extent of my knowledge of swear words then). I am visually impaired, not mentally deficient, but I didn't say anything, just signed my name where my father showed me, and we left.
There was another bit of bother on voting day. My mother went with me that time. What should have been a joyful day (I'm an adult; I can vote) was anxious and uncomfortable. Oh will the time ever come when I can vote for myself? my heart wished. It's still wishing, but the day is closer.
When Gordon and I married, he and his parents began talking right away about whether or not I had lived in Colorado long enough to be able to vote. There were about 2,500 people in Craig in those days, most of them working in agriculture or related businesses. We went to the Moffat County Courthouse to register me, my stomach in knots and my throat dry. Was I going to embarrass my new husband and his family? We all went together. Grandpa Tileston said "Mary, I want you to meet our new daughter. She wants to register to vote." (It was Mary Haughey the county clerk, who took my hand kindly and welcomed me to Moffat County.) "We've all heard about you. A college graduate!" She didn't seem to mind at all reading the form to me and showing me where to sign it. We celebrated.
Forty years have gone by since then. I have hardly ever missed voting. Each time, my honorable and faithful husband marks my ballot for me. Though I know he would sooner eat snakes than mark my ballot his way rather than mine (we really do not always agree), I still wish for the day I can do it myself.
I know the new accessible voting machines are costly, and I know that people grumble, "If it weren't for people like Evelyn, we wouldn't be spending this money on something not many people need anyway." To those people I say: People have fought and died so I can vote by myself. People have sat-in, gone hungry, marched, lobbied, prayed and sang, so I can vote. I owe it to those people to vote; and you owe it to those people to let me vote independently.
When the accessible voting machines finally are ready for use, I hope to be the first person in line to vote. And let's ALL celebrate.