The anxiety of voting in 2020

My hands were shaking, palms covered in sweat and I had no idea how I was going to sign my own name perfectly.

I wasn’t signing a mortgage or a contract for a big job — I was voting by mail in 2020.

I have voted in pretty much every election since I turned 18. I may have missed a special election or a primary here or there but even as a high school student my interests had already turned to debate, politics and government. No one was going to stop me from engaging in the democratic process. Twice I moved across the country and both times one of the first things I did in my new city was register to vote. I’ve always felt a small amount of satisfaction as I voted, like there was something celebratory about doing my duty as a citizen.

Voting in 2020 is not an exercise of joy or civic pride. Between the heightened anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic and voter suppression schemes that were deliberately planted by the current President and the GOP voting is an exercise in panic. Like everything else in our society voting is riddled with dread.

It does not have to be this way. I taught government, civics and debate for seven years and I never prepared my high school students for an election where navigating the byzantine rules of local voting procedures was a game of gotcha. A game where the GOP would use every possible technicality to invalidate or suppress our votes.

For example, take the politicization of the mail. After scenes of long lines of masked people voting during the Wisconsin primary, many voters decided to vote by mail this Fall. The administration responded by restructuring the US Post Office in ways that were “clearly aimed at voter disenfranchisement” according to District Judge Stanley Bastian.

Then there are the lawsuits in almost every swing state and locality, which promise continue after Election Day. Less than 24 hours before polls close on November 3 judges are ruling on whether over 127,000 votes already cast in Houston via curbside voting will count. Mere days before voting ends they are ruling on whether the mail-in deadlines in Minnesota will match the standard printed on the ballot. These are transparent partisan attempts to prematurely end ballot counting, or throw out votes altogether, in key states and municipalities.

All of this is happening as the President traverses the country ranting about a specter of voting fraud that experts have proven does not exist.

Amidst this backdrop I found myself sitting with my mail-in ballot terrified I’d made the wrong decision to vote by mail. What if I used the wrong color ink? What if I missed a signature line? What if the ballot drop boxes the City of Chicago provided for voters weren’t secure? What if…

It took me two sittings and multiple hours to fill out my ballot because I kept shaking while I was doing it. I practiced signing my own name four times. I clung to my ballot white-knuckled as I walked two blocks to my ballot drop box. I was terrified a gust of Chicago’s Autumn air would blow it out of my hands. I pushed my envelope full of desperate hope for a future where my vote still matters through the small slit at the top of the box and I prayed that my ballot for a return to elections with less anxiety would count.



Former teacher | Lifelong Cubs fan | Heavily caffeinated

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store