By Saba Hamedy, Staff Writer
On Election Day in the year 2000, my fourth grade teacher gave my class copies of a blank United States map. Our homework was to color in each state blue or red, based off the Electoral College tally as it was projected. Naturally, my 10-year-old self didn’t quite understand what the Electoral College was, let alone the significance of an election. My first reaction was frustration over the fact that I’d probably have to miss an episode of “Hey Arnold!” that night. But alas, my inner perfectionist was ready to get an “O” for outstanding (I went to a liberal elementary school) on my assignment.
So, that night, I sat with my parents in front of the television and slaved away at my coloring — state by state, hour by hour. When the clock struck 9 p.m., I was ready to go to bed. With all my states colored in, I could go to sleep in peace knowing I finished my assignment. But as I was leaving, the reporter said, “This just in: Florida now a red state.”
I blinked twice, shocked. I was livid. I had already colored in Florida blue with marker! I couldn’t erase it.
“My teacher is going to mark me down!” I wailed, both frustrated and confused.
“No, no it’s okay, we’ll just white it out,” my mom calmly responded.
I watched her slowly trace over the then-blue state with a milky white pen. Now Florida was red, with a slight blue tint. I still wasn’t satisfied but figured it was the best I could do. Finally I could go to sleep.
But just as I was getting up, the reporter repeated, “This just in: Florida is a blue state… again.”
I decided to go to sleep anyway, with the state colored red. I was too tired to re-white out Florida, and I secretly hoped my classmates had kept it red too. The next day, I found not only did my entire class have it red also, but that this mysterious red-blue state of Florida was a toss-up, making the 2000 election one of the most controversial ones in U.S. history. Reporters said it would take months to figure out if the state was blue or red. The president elect was still undecided.
That was my first experience with politics, but certainly not my last. As the years went on, my knowledge of politics increased but my interest stayed the same. Although the next election took place in eighth grade, all I really remember is that after George Bush won, my very-liberal English teacher (who dressed up as a “blue state” for Halloween, I kid you not) muttered “F—k!” under her breath and let us have free time during class.
Then of course came the 2008 election. In high school, voting became cool and those non-18-year-olds (aka me) were frustrated I couldn’t take part in the “vote or die” trend. But I don’t think the Election Day effect ever really hit me. Until today.
Today, Nov. 6, 2012, I lost my voting virginity and sent in my ballot. No more confusion over the Electoral College. No more coloring in red or blue. In fact, now, as a political science and journalism double major, I have become the ultimate political news junkie. This time around, I know more is at stake than just an “Outstanding” on my homework assignment. So tonight, I will sit glued to the television, anxiously watch Wolf Blitzer point out states on CNN’s interactive map and either cry tears of joy or sorrow. Maybe I’ll print out a blank map of the United States and color, just for fun.
Happy Election Day!