The man, the mail-in ballot, and meaning

Sam signed up for mail-in ballots after the pandemic began. Texas allows individuals with disabilities and voters age 65 and older to vote by mail.

He registered as a Republican after learning that he would miss at least one upcoming local election if he didn’t. Turns out, he got two test runs with the mail-in-ballot routine before the big one — the November presidential — arrived. In mid-July, Denton County had a run-off between two GOP nominees for state judge in the 431st District Court. Then we unexpectedly had a crowded race of Republicans and a lone Democrat vying to succeed our former State Senator, who let no grass get under his ultra-ambitious feet as he hopscotched his way from newbie Texas resident and the state legislature into Congress this year.

When the November ballot arrived in the mail in early October, Sam opened up the envelope and spread its contents across the dining room table. He grabbed a pen and colored in the box to vote for president. He took a deep breath, saying that it felt powerful to vote for Joe Biden. He stood up and announced then that he would come back to finish the rest of the ballot later.

The ballot was long. It included federal, state, and county offices. It also included city offices, as the Texas governor postponed local races because of the pandemic. When Sam returned to finish voting, he surprised me how prepared he was to make informed choices all the way down.

He’d been watching our current president, and deteriorating conditions for a long time. He had thought long and hard about how to vote for change.

Our current president proved himself irredeemable to us when he mocked a reporter with a disability in 2015. The past four years have been so bad that it was genuinely shocking — and should not have been — to watch Joe Biden return the affection of a man with Down syndrome who rushed to hug him several years ago.

It’s a hard thing to explain to people who haven’t been on this journey, what it is like to regularly experience another human being’s black-heartedness in a deeply personal way. When Sam was little, we shielded him. Now that he’s an adult, we have to talk about it.

Those are the worst conversations. Not because Sam gets hurt, or because we don’t have strategies for him, but because we parents are hard-wired to protect our children. When I hear these stories, or watch things unfold in front of me, I want to slap somebody. I haven’t so far, so I guess the strategies are working for me, too.

Sam told me about a week before Election Day that he was going to want to watch the returns on election night, in hopes that his choice would prevail with everyone else. Election night was tough, but as the days went by, you could see the tension lift. Sam is not just relieved, but happy.

“I voted for Joe Biden as hard as I could,” he said.



  1. Michael Hennen on November 12, 2020 at 1:36 am

    Sam’s dedication to being an informed voter is inspiring. And, Sam, I was with you, voting “as hard as I could” for Joe Biden.

    • Peggy on November 12, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Welcome, Michael.

  2. Annette Fuller on November 12, 2020 at 1:52 am

    Thanks to Sam for caring about his country and voting! Loved hearing this story.

  3. Janemarie Clark on November 12, 2020 at 2:05 am

    Way to go Sam! I voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, too. Policies and platforms are important but the baseline for the job of president has to be solid humanity and leadership first.

    • Peggy on November 12, 2020 at 2:52 am

      I was thinking about that baseline idea on this evening’s walk, Janemarie. We know the character of our leaders is important, but we often have a hard time assessing it, especially those politicians who are really polished.

      • GAYE WISE on November 12, 2020 at 11:20 pm

        The continuing story of Sam brings tears of joy.

        • Peggy on November 13, 2020 at 1:14 am

          I am blessed.

  4. Tom Spencer on November 16, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Good to read of Sam’ informed participation in citizenship. A good role model for all citizens.

    • Peggy on November 16, 2020 at 4:21 pm

      Welcome, Tom.

  5. Lucinda Breeding on November 16, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    That video did something to me. I suppose some people would say I’m an easily manipulated rube. But he seemed so sincere in moving toward someone a lot of people would feel anxious about.

    • Peggy on November 16, 2020 at 7:14 pm

      To me, that is “leaning in.”

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