Voters stand in line waiting to cast ballots in  the 2020 election at a Charlotte early voting site. (Photo for Cardinal & Pine by Alvin Jacobs Jr.) Democracy in action.
Voters stand in line waiting to cast ballots in the 2020 election at a Charlotte early voting site. (Photo for Cardinal & Pine by Alvin Jacobs Jr.)

Politics is exhausting. But the most effective thing that we can do to fix it is not. Go vote.

I voted in person. It was easy. It felt safe. And yes, it was probably the most enjoyable thing I’ve done in the last seven months. 

My daughter, a 6-year-old who positively can’t wait to vote, bopped back and forth between me and my partner in a nearby booth. 

“Are you doing it right?” she asked me as I filled in the bubbles. “Oh yeah,” I said. In an election this visceral, I prefer the bubble to the electronic touch screen. I suppose the physical act of coloring in is more cathartic. Never has a bubble been filled more comprehensively than this. There will be no daylight in this bubble. 

READ MORE: Early Voting is Underway in North Carolina. Here’s Everything You Need to Know.

It was a drizzly day in Durham so we encountered a minimal line. The day before, however, I’d seen the photos of North Carolinians lined up down the block waiting for their chance. Local TV stations called out the choppers to catch the lines snaking down the street. 

“Busy yesterday?” I asked a poll worker. “Oh yeahhhh,” was the answer. It is a trope to say so, but that’s a satisfying answer. Never have we been asked to make more existential decisions at the voting booth. Silence is not an option.    

So many aren’t going to take this in-person route, and of course I don’t blame them. You have to make the choices that make you feel safe. (Curbside voting is also an option for some.)  Voting by mail is the safest and it’s trustworthy. If anyone tells you otherwise, ask them to prove it. Know that they can’t however. 

I voted in person because I felt safe doing this I felt confident that our state election officials were thoughtful about this most essential of rights and they were. This is not the sort of election you can sit out.  

The booths were spaced sufficiently. A poll worker greeted us at the door with a bottle of hand sanitizer and we could grab a pen out of a waiting shoebox. We got to keep the pen because of the coronavirus. 

“This pen drives out fascists,” I told my daughter. She’s not hip to the Woody Guthrie reference, but she understands what a fascist is now. 

I’m registered to vote already, so it was simply a matter of telling the poll worker my name and my address. Within minutes I had a ballot. 

If you are registered, you don’t need an ID. But if you aren’t, and you’d like to register at the early voting locations near you and then vote, one of the great perks of NC’s early, one-stop voting system, you’ll need some proof that you reside in the county. That could be a driver’s license, a passport, a bill.  

I took my time, turning the ballot over to catch all the races. We like to talk about the big national races but those down-ballot races are so crucial too. In many years, those are the races that are going to impact your life the most. 

Gloved poll workers in surgical gowns and face shields flitted about the room spraying down voting booths after each person left. At times, it felt more like I was getting a flu shot than voting, although voting, in its own way, is kind of an inoculation. 

On the way out, of course, we got a sticker. “I voted, no bull,” it read, a nod to Durham’s horned mascot. My daughter got one too. She wore it proudly, which is the only way to wear it. 

“Since you couldn’t vote, I voted for you,” I told my daughter, meaning I made the voting decisions that I hope will make this scorched earth a better place for her. 

“You can’t do that, that’s illegal,” she snapped back. 

When we got back to the car, she gave me a powerful high-five. She seemed super-charged, jittery. 

As usual, she’s right. That’s the kind of energy we should all have. Politics is exhausting. But the most effective thing that we can do to fix it is not. In this case, it took me less than an hour. And it beats the hell out of cabin fever. Two birds, one really big stone.