I am filling in the little ovals with a nice black pen.
"I voted for a fish," she says, "and you're voting for Ovama." A child who still mixes up her b's and v's, yes, but one who is still capable of grasping the democratic process.
Even though we have mail-in voting here in Oregon, i have left it up to the last minute, hurriedly glossing over the voter pamphlet and its dozen measures in the coffee shop today. There's just something about voting during the excitement of the final days, instead of weeks beforehand. When we don't have a voting booth to go into, at least we have this feeling in the air. So i'm sipping coffee with my daughter, after preschool is over, talking about voting with her. It's all people seem to be talking about; as i am boning up on the differences between Oregon Measures 57 and 61, two people at the coffee counter just happen to be expounding upon it. They change my view, somewhat.
The kiddo has heard of this man Obama before. Somehow through our previous conversations she's gotten it into her head that he and her grandpa are buddies. I think it's because she believes her grandpa is "in charge" -- just as i told her Barack would be when he wins the presidency. This is the first big election she's seen, and it's already a historic one. Perhaps she will remember how we gathered together on election night, to dance in the streets and make a toast for change. I hope that she also remembers the first "vote" she made today -- when she and her pre-K classmates voted on what to name the class fish. I thought it was a good move on the teacher's part -- letting the kids get some feel of what voting is all about.
I explain to her, between sips of my mocha, how each of the little bubbles i'm filling in is a vote 'yes or no' for certain things. More tax deductions. Merit-based teaching. More checks on government spending for political causes. I try to convey that by filling in "yes or no," the people decide what the "rules" are in our world. I wonder how to explain to her that this is some of the small influence the individuals have on the whole. So much else plays into the power structure, and we would be delusional to really believe that voting does it all. But blackening the ovals does do something, right?
As for Barack Obama, perhaps we are overly confident in the power of one man. Perhaps he is just a vision of what could be -- and not the Agent For All Change that we hope. But as he pulls ahead with what could be the largest lead in electoral votes in history, it restores my faith that we Americans do have a conscience. And i am thrilled that my daughter's first conscious memories of the electoral process are during this time.