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A few days before the November 8, 2022 midterm election, Ark Valley  (AVV) Senior Reporter Dan Smith ran a news story about a voter he had observed at a ballot box snapping a selfie while dropping off a ballot. He mused about the identity of the voter and took that opportunity to point out the importance of young voters to the future of democracy and the continuity of our elections.

This young person proudly took a selfie of depositing their election ballot Nov. 1 at the drop box in front of the Chaffee County Administration building Nov. 1. We really would like to know if it was their first time voting, so please get in touch with us at AVV. Dan Smith photo.

We asked that the voter, who we thought was perhaps a first-time voter, provide an identity. Last night we got our answer. It was not what we thought; it was much better.

First – we were fooled — the goofy tennis shoes and happy face were so enthusiastic that we assumed youth. But the message we received from this AVV reader is a message of  confidence in the rule of law, “a celebratory moment, an act of gratitude of having been born into a society where I CAN do this thing largely without fear.”

This is her wonderful message. We hope that every single AVV reader takes the time to read it and reaffirm the role that each and every one of us plays in this great country:

Dear Ark Valley Voice folks,
While I was out of town this week, a couple of people sent me this photo, which ran in your publication. The caption identified me as “this young person,” and you asked me to let you know if I was a first-time voter.

First of all, you made my week. Surely it was my goofy tennis shoes that fooled the photographer, because I’m a 50-something mother of a young man who is closer to first-time voting age than I ever will be again. But I figured I’d take the opportunity to use this case of mistaken identity to say this:

I have voted in every election since I was legally able. I’ve begun taking selfies of dropping my ballot off 1) because these days, I feel like having proof of the fundamental act is probably not a bad idea, but more important 2) because it’s a celebratory moment, an act of gratitude of having been born into a society where I CAN do this thing largely without fear (I’m aware this isn’t true for everyone in this country – so another reason to be personally grateful).

Every American surely has felt the suffocating division of our political system of late, and the temptation some election days to wash your hands of it all and stay home. But First-Time Voters, Young People – do not do this. Don’t give up hope on this terribly imperfect system that is still the best one humans have yet devised for advancing a society that clumsily attempts to include everyone.

Please don’t make my silly selfies into snapshots of the way it used to be. VOTE every election, VOTE every chance you get. Maybe the Ark Valley Voice will even commit to a selfie contest or something, showing Young People in Silly Shoes dropping off their ballots or standing at the courthouse waiting to exercise their semi-sacred right to use their voice.

If only this were my first election! Think how many more ballot selfies I’d have to look forward to. But I know my son and his generation will take up the cause to keep the right to vote an inalienable part of this fractured, infuriating but ultimately self-determining society.

Best wishes,
Diane French, Salida, CO

Diane, Ark Valley Voice is profoundly grateful for your response and we agree with you that the right to vote is an inalienable component of this democracy. Like you, we will do everything we can to support it, to remind folks of the fundamental rights that make us a democracy and to encourage all, and especially our young people, to engage so that all of us can remain free in this imperfect — but the best that has ever been devised — system of self-governance.

And P.S. — we love your selfie contest idea and plan to put it into action for the next election season!