My future high school had a distinctive smell.
I was very young at the time, years away from fighting through its crowded hallways, when my mother dragged me into the dank school. It was her polling place, and I’d get a whiff of what I imagined democracy to be a couple of times every even-numbered year.
The voting booths came out of the 1950s. You stepped inside, closed the curtain, and manipulated a series of levers that might as well have been in the cockpit of an airplane. Representative democracy seemingly required a degree if you were to play an active role.
Fast-forward several years, and I’m performing the intricate maneuvers required to get to my next class. Newly 16 years old, my friends and I spent a Saturday driving to local political party headquarters. We collected brochures and paraphernalia for the various candidates.
We couldn’t even vote, but we breathed politics. We cemented our stance on issues with no clear foundation or reason. We knew better than everyone.
A few years later I had my first chance to vote in a presidential election, and I threw away my shot. No one told me I could have applied for an absentee ballot, that I didn’t need to drive three hours to my hometown just to cast a ballot.
I drove nowhere. I did no research about absentee ballots. My cemented foundation of knowledge was full of cracks, and I didn’t even know it.
I wised up, just a bit, once out of college. I’d buy the Sunday paper before each election and read through the details of each candidate. On election day I’d walk the quarter mile to my polling place, informed, knowing I was making the right choices.
Even if I did have to hold my nose for some of them.
I haven’t missed an election since then. And now, with ballots appearing in your mailbox, neither do you.
All registered Nevada County voters should receive their ballot in the mail. You can fill it out and mail it back. Or you can bring it to one of several drop sites, or to a voting center once those open.
Alternatively, you can vote in person, pencil in hand, scratching in the boxes yourself.
You don’t need to request a mail-in-ballot in Nevada County. It’ll come to you. There’s no array of levers to move, no need to leave your house if you don’t want to. There’s no reason your voice shouldn’t be heard.
The education part, however, remains up to you.
You don’t need to wait for a certain day to buy the paper. You can find our coverage online at www.theunion.com/elections.
See what the candidates have to say. How do those vying for office stack up? And what about the local ballot measures?
It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in the big, national races. The races that draw the most emotion. The ones that lead us to contribute money. The ones that cause 16 year olds to hunt down a candidate’s political headquarters.
Those kids would have been better served to learn about local races and ballot measures. Sure, the presidency is exciting, but so is a cannabis business license tax and a half-cent sales tax.
Those are the votes that you’ll feel as a business or consumer on a regular basis. The race for president is important. So is deciding whether you’ll pay more for items purchased within a certain city.
But you’ve got to educate yourselves before casting your ballot in order to make the best decision. That way you’ll know what passes the smell test.
And learn what stinks.
Contact Acting Editor Alan Riquelmy at [email protected] or 530-477-4239.