Earlier this week, I received my mail-in ballot. This will be my first opportunity to vote in a general election, a time I've been waiting for ever since my kindergarten class read our Weekly Reader and raised our hands to vote between Clinton and Dole. (I voted for Clinton because I had never heard of Bob Dole, and he just reminded me of pineapples and bananas...)

The significance of voting in this election didn't hit me until the second page of my ballot fell into my lap. It listed the races for the local school board. I had been going to school in this school district since I was in middle school, and I never missed a beat in criticizing the administrative board. I'll admit, I cackled when I realized I was finally going to have a say in who ran the district, but I wished this moment would have come when I was still a student.

Regardless, realizing my voice could finally (at least by means of voting) make a difference in my community actually scared me a little. This is why my ballot has the majority of the races left blank and has been folded up on my desk for the last few days. What if I vote for the wrong person? What if I bubble in outside the lines?

I am one of those horribly detailed people who researches every candidate before voting for them. While this is time-consuming, it's unfortunate not everyone does this.

Voting is our biggest responsibility as Americans, yet only around 50 percent of eligible voters bother to show up to the polls on average. Even though our last general election surpassed voter turnout for the past century, still less than 65 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots on election day.

Even though only half of the country votes, we can all assume that the number of people who complain about our country's laws and policies is nearly double this number, but who are people to complain about leaders they didn't even bother voting for or against?

This message is non-partisan. Regardless of your political affiliation, voting is the easiest way to make a difference in this country.

With all that said, get out and vote!

------ For more information on voting, visit the Texas Secretary of State's webpage.



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