This morning I fed my ballot into a machine and waited patiently for the confirmation that my vote had been counted. I was excited to participate in what’s sure be one of the more consequential midterm elections in recent memory, but I wasn’t just excited about democratic participation. I craved acknowledgment of my participation. I wanted my damn sticker.
When the election officer (finally) handed me the sticker, I immediately stuck it on to my ball cap and strutted out of the town hall with my head held high. I stopped to get a cup of coffee proudly sporting my sticker, proof that I give a shit about things. And when I observed other people sporting their new accessories, I gave them a sharp nod. They reciprocated as though to say, “What’s up, fellow voter. I see you.”
Sure, it’s a piece of paper with a sticky back, but the voting sticker is so much more. They are like a karmic badge proving you’ve got skin in the game. They bind you to 50 percent of the United States’ eligible voters who have decided that casting a ballot is an important part of being a citizen. Also, they’re fun.
I mean, if I’m honest, I’m always a little jealous when the cashier hands my children stickers at Trader Joes. And when my kids get a book with a page of stickers in the back, I get nostalgic for my own sticker-rich childhood. Because as an adult, the only place where I do allow myself any personal sticker indulgence is on the back of our family car. And even then, the car is reserved for stickers from extraordinary locations we’ve been in our travels, like the St. Ignace Mystery Spot and Wall Drug. In a way, it makes sense then that I’d crave a sticker from my polling place. Because the voting booth is just as extraordinary and deeply American as a giant tourist trap rest area in the middle of South Dakota or a striking optical illusion in the wilds of Upper Michigan. Democracy is America’s greatest roadside attraction.
And, as with bumper stickers from an exotic waypoint, there’s a delightful variety in voting stickers. A friend posted hers from San Francisco which read “I Voted” in four different languages. The New York City “I Voted” sticker looks like the subway map. Where I am, the stickers read, “I Ohio Voting”. At least that’s the literal way of reading it. We’re supposed to acknowledge that the shape of Ohio is vaguely heart-like so that it reads “I Love Voting.” That’s both very silly and entirely wonderful.
But the best thing about voting stickers is that they are a non-partisan celebration of our civic duty. When I see others sporting voting stickers I know only that they walked into a polling place and marked their ballot. I do not know who they voted for. I don’t know what issues are important to them. But I know that they are Americans who care enough about the country to offer their guidance.
Also, I know that they like stickers. And frankly, you can’t argue with that.
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