One Woman, One Vote

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This is Kevin Roderick with this week's LA Observed for KCRW.

Reporters who spend a lot of time covering election campaigns can turn cynical about the system. Listening to the same carefully crafted talking points and messages over and over can do that to you.

And observing up close how the influence of all those big checks corrupts can introduce a certain coldness to your view.

I was raised in a political household and generally like and respect those who practice the craft. But I'm as guilty as anyone of eying the game through the lens of a cynic.

On Tuesday, though, I got a nice reminder that the democratic process is, at its most innocent essence, still about individuals exercising a basic American right.

I accompanied my daughter to our polling place at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Mar Vista.

It was to be her first time as a voter.

She had been looking forward to this day for years. Registering to vote was just about the first thing she did after turning eighteen.

She's memorized entire episodes of The West Wing and done some volunteering for campaigns. I think she belongs to the Democratic Club at school.

At their mock caucus, she stood up for John Edwards. Only to be re-distributed into the Obama cluster when her candidate failed to make the cut.

By Tuesday she knew who she would vote for. She had an opinion on some of the California propositions, not on others. Same as me.

Her plan was to take the bus home and vote in our neighborhood, to get the full experience.

I got the idea she was anxious when she called home to plea for a ride. The Big Blue Santa Monica bus was running late, and she didn't want to miss the polls. This was about 4 o'clock – four hours before they closed.

But it wasn't until we were heading over to St. Bede's that I realized how Big a Deal this was for her.

She chattered about the day's news, and about the huge turnout. She was concerned by the Double-Bubble screw-up that affected me and Ninety Thousand other Decline-to-State voters in LA County.

More than nervous, she was excited -- and feeling grown up. I observed a confident mature stride, a sense that she knew this was a club where she belonged.

Inside the parish hall, she found her way to our precinct table, gave her address and signed the register.

Before I could even do one sweep around the room, she was sliding her marked ballot in the lock-box and rolling the I Voted sticker onto her jacket.

It was done. She was an American voter.

Her smile lit up the hall. She glided toward the door, using a word I had not heard her speak before.

What she felt was fulfilled. She said it over and over.

The thrill didn't wear off until we were sitting in front of the TV and listening to CNN call the winners in states within seconds of the polls closing.

Shortly after 8 o'clock, she decided to head back to her dorm. She had a ton of reading to do. But I think the mass media barrage had also begun to kill her buzz.

The game was back in the hands of the big names – Wolf and Anderson and the experts who lined up three deep on the CNN set, offering quick instant analysis of the horse races.

Counting her vote must have seemed to her like a superfluous, un-fulfilling exercise.

Many thousands of California voters had not even cast their ballots and yet the pundits were already jumping to the next news cycle.

I feel reasonably sure that my little girl's idealism will bring her back to the polls in June. But maybe not. The only sexy race up for grabs will be the showdown to choose a successor to County Supervisor Yvonne Burke.

All I can do is keep showing her that, even though politics is a game, casting her vote is what matters.

For KCRW this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.