NNBW Editor: Take it from a toddler-aged voter – please vote this year (Voices) | nnbw.com
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NNBW Editor: Take it from a toddler-aged voter – please vote this year (Voices)

Kevin MacMillan

kmacmillan@nevadanewsgroup.com

Kevin MacMillan
File photo

This past weekend, I walked to the downtown Reno library to take advantage of in-person early voting for the 2020 presidential election.

It will mark the second time in my life I’ve ever voted — which is a fairly remarkable (nay, embarrassing) statement for a 36-year-old to make.

See, for years, I’d cynically scoff at what I observed were kitschy social media photos of Americans, my friends even, flashing their “I voted” sticker every two years.

Much like there’s been growing pent-up demand for so many services and luxuries during the pandemic, after turning 18, I grew more and more apathetic toward our country’s democratic process.

For years, I truly did not care to vote, and whenever someone scolded me with a, “Kevin, it’s your civic responsibility,” comment, I’d flippantly cast it aside rather than cast a vote.

Back in the spring of 2014, when I was editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspapers up the hill, I wrote an oped titled simply, yet brazenly, “Why I exercise my right not to vote.”

My reasons for not voting were twofold: 1. As a journalist, I’m meant to be neutral in all facets, so I couldn’t “ethically” vote one way or another; and 2. To put it bluntly, I loathe politics. The way I saw it, politicians will be politicians, so it doesn’t matter who you vote for, nothing’s going to change.

First of all, regarding my first excuse, it’s hogwash. I’ve learned since that that is a terrible, lazy reason to shirk responsibility.

To expound overall, here are a few snippets from that March 19, 2014, column:

“How can a newspaper editor, of all people — someone who’s granted the power to wield his opinion with reckless abandon by an industry that buys ink by the barrel (to bring back an old-school newspaper phrase) — not feel that voting is important?

Well, first of all, I do feel that exercising one’s right to vote is important. Democracy is a wonderful thing, and I always thank my lucky stars that this country was founded centuries ago on principles allowing people the right to choose (well, for most things that is…).

Regardless if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or any other party affiliate, it’s your right to choose sides and share opinions on why certain issues are good or bad. And I support that right.

But for me, I exercise the right to not vote, a right afforded to me in the same way the right to do so was granted in the 18th century.”

And so on. In essence, my argument was as follows: “Just because we have the right to vote doesn’t preclude the fact I am allowed not to vote, right? Our freedoms afford us the right to choose,” I indignantly, even smugly, told people.

It was almost as if I was hell-bent on dying on the modern-day “It’s my patriotic right to not wear a mask, COVID be damned” hill.

As you can imagine, I got quite a few emails and letters to the editor VERY critical of my opinion — and a few profanity-laden comments that I won’t re-publish here. Still more conversations were had over beers with community members and some friends, who, again, were quick to remind me of my civic responsibilities.

But, for four more years, never did I waver on my no-vote viewpoint.

That is, until the spring of 2018, when I registered as a nonpartisan voter in Washoe County and later that year participated in my first election, voting red in some cases (Mark Amodei) and blue in others (Steve Sisolak).

So, what’s changed? For one, I was finally waking up to how divided this country had become. But mostly, I finally grew up, wised up and swallowed my misplaced pride in favor of common sense.

Look, we all make mistakes when we’re younger. I’m the farthest from perfect, and I’ve committed countless errors in my life, some big and some small.

Still, I now know the value of voting, and while turning the corner recently doesn’t excuse me from turning a blind eye for nearly 15 years to the democratic process in this country, the important thing is that I’ve been able to recognize, grow and learn.

At the end of the day, that’s really all we can ask of ourselves, of our neighbors, our friends, our family — to learn from past mistakes and be better people in the process.

Yet, over the past four years when it comes to politics, I’ve seen so much vitriol at a national level, so much hatred on social media, so many stories of relationships with friends and family fractured beyond repair due to certain allegiances to one side versus the other. 

This country is truly at a crossroads, and regardless of who wins the election this November, those potholes and cracks in America’s soul won’t heal overnight. Honestly, the odds are quite high that four years down the road, we’ll still be at each other’s throats, more polarized than ever, yearning for more change.

By now, you’ve either already voted or have your mind made up, so surely you don’t need me — a toddler-aged voter, if you will — reminding you the importance of voting.

Yet here I am, sharing my story, knowing if I can reach even just one person who’s on the fence about whether to cast a ballot to change their mind, then I’ll consider that a victory.

So please, go out and vote.

Pride comes before the fall — in this political landscape, this fall more than ever.

Kevin MacMillan is editor of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. Email him at kmacmillan@nevadanewsgroup.com.