AP Photo/Richard Drew
A woman scans her ballot after voting at a school in New York's Harlem neighborhood, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Monday allowing residents to cast a so-called affidavit, or provisional ballot, at any polling place in the state for president and statewide office holders.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — There were no lines, no trouble parking, and not many smiling faces at the polls this year as far as I could tell.

It was the first time in years that I was not one of the polling inspectors. It was my option — no longer wanting to put in a 16-hour day, starting at 5:30 a.m. and leaving some time between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Other workers who were apparently in another dimension as we sat through mandatory preparation classes given every year tried my patience too often. It goes on, but that is not the point.

I have always been a patriot. I owe it to this country. My grandparents were all immigrants from Eastern Europe who fled to a better life, around the turn of the century. Most traveled steerage class — little better than the way livestock were transported. Life was tough when they settled in New York, but not nearly as hard as what happened to those who remained in the Ukraine, Prussia and Russia.

My maternal grandmother made it a priority to gain her citizenship and participate in the privilege of voting. She cast her vote every year of her life as an American citizen, until all that remained was a shell of a little old lady. It took her 35 years to learn to read English, but she tried every day. Not bad for a woman who was apprenticed out at the age of 8 to a glove maker.

Comment on this story

She thought voting a privilege — I have come to believe it is a serious responsibility that few take too lightly. What lies in store for us after the polls close is a mystery. The country will get what it deserves, for better or worse. Not voting or writing in national candidates serves no one — registering a vote of dissension says you failed to get into the process sooner. It means you care more about yourself than everyone else. If you do not like the major parties, work to change that: vote to eliminate term limits and the 'old boy network.’ Change starts at the bottom, not by wasting a ballot.

We need to be grateful that our system, though flawed, is the best one available, not an autocratic dictatorship or theocracy. We have a choice, where those who criticize our democracy do not. You are either part of the solution or part of the problem — just think about it.

Corie Richter is a resident of upstate NY. She is a veteran, published author, healthcare and educational writer who enjoys ancient history, is involved with scouting and community volunteer work.