20 October, 2008

The weight of the world

This morning I posted my electoral ballot for the upcoming Presidential election. Although I am Irish and live in Dublin, I am also an American citizen. But though I vote at the drop of a hat at home - it helps that my local polling office is all but next door - I’ve never voted in an American election.

People on both sides of the Atlantic have been excited by the drama of this election; a young, inspirational candidate facing an experienced and respected veteran.And all played out against the murky backdrop of race and faith politics.

In all honesty, I’ve never voted in an American election before because of the hassle. To vote in this election I had to send in a voter registration form, wait for my county registrar in the States to send back a ballot, and then fill it out and post it back. As I write, I have still not received my ballot and so I have returned a federal write-in ballot (like an emergency ballot for US citizens overseas).

So why bother now, when I haven’t before? Is this election more important than the previous two, which have produced such disastrous results in world affairs over the past eight years? Will my single vote make a difference?

It is hard to answer these questions. I’m not even sure I vote for change; our political and elector systems are deeply flawed and I’m not sure change (in a direct, straightforward sense) is possible. I vote because it is my right as a citizen, a right I might not enjoy in another country or political system.

I vote because, flawed as our politics is, voting sends a simple message that people out there (out here!) care about what politicians do, what countries do. I vote in this election in particular because its outcome will effect global politics (and global everything else) and if there’s any chance I can influence that with my vote I must try.