The Voting Experience
Council member Shook shares his first time at the ballot box
Voting plays an invaluable role in our American political system. Whether voting for president or local boards and commissions, casting a ballot shapes the futures of cities, shapes, and the country.
With the 2020 general election coming up, this series will offer a look at the first-time voting experiences for members of the Atlanta City Council.
First up is District 7 Council member Howard Shook:
“My first time casting a vote of any national consequence was 1976 — not that it helped,” Shook joked about that’s year election that saw incumbent Gerald Ford losing to Jimmy Carter. “Far more memorable for me was the first time I remember being in a voting booth, which was well before that. It’s probably one of my earliest memories. I was on my mom’s hip and she was always involved in local campaigns, which at that time meant licking stamps, sealing envelopes, and wearing campaign buttons the size of hubcaps.”
His first voting memories occurred as a child at his family’s polling place in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
“I remember going in there. I remember the metallic swish with the curtain closing behind us like it just happened. I remember then being confronted by this phantasmagorical device from floor to ceiling — the old voting machines with the levers, gears and panels. It was like something out of the Wizard of Oz and I’ve never forgotten that.”
He added that there’s a famous assessment about the voting process that rings true every election.
“In democracy, you get the government you deserve,” he said.
These early memories at the polls and his experience in public service has reinforced the value of making sure his family and friends make it out to the polls each election.
“Get involved,” Shook said about the political process and voting. “It’s always been important in my family. My kids don’t miss it, so if I’ve successfully passed anything along, maybe it’s that.”