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HONORING MY MOTHER | Filling in the blank

By Icoy San Pedro

IT HAS always been the same thing every time. Whenever I find myself inside a voting room or booth and looking down at my given ballot, the urge to fill it up becomes so strong that as a result, I always end up including the names of candidates whom I never intended to vote for. I always leave unhappy at times and I reckon, just because of this subconscious desire to have a full list, I feel duped in a way.

At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around it, then I figured it out. Could it be our years upon years of conditioning which started in school when we were little kids? Or perhaps, even earlier? We have been told then, follow instructions dutifully, always paint within the lines, maintain a straight formation, obey authority, etcetera.

Then, fruition. Many elections ago, I remember hearing someone say, “never leave your ballots empty. You never know, chances are, someone might fill it up once you leave.” Now, call that anything you like, muscle memory or a lifetime of brainwashing kicking in. Thing is, I always leave the polling place feeling satisfied that I filled up every blank in my ballot. Good boy that I am. After a while, realization kicks in.

Just a theory. I have often wondered why some controversial or rather really unpopular politicians always seem to get re-elected. Time and again, one sees their familiar faces every campaign period and they begin to appear unbeatable. I figured three things: first, they must really have a huge following. Nothing one can do about that. Second, they cheat. This has always been the long-standing suspicion about some politicians. However, through the years, they’ve either become so crafty, proving this or catching them in the act has always been very difficult. Or there’s bigger machinery out there controlling the strings. 

The last reason why these people always seem to get re-elected is precisely this: our inclination to complete our list of candidates, regardless of personal choice. We might not have included them originally but because of name recall, media hype and more importantly, our obsession at coming up with a full roster, we end up including them. Now replicate this action a million times. 

I’m willing to break a habit. So far, I’ve been successful with smoking, which I’ve stopped since the start of the pandemic. When I arrive at my assigned polling place on Monday, I’ll just hand in a partially-filled ballot. With only the names of those whom I believe are worthy of my vote. No more, no less. That may be difficult to do, but there’s always a first time. 



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