Many Americans will probably agree that, politically speaking, 2017 was not a great year. It started with fallout from the 2016 presidential election and went downhill from there.
Of course, there were cheerful blips, such as the defeat in Alabama of Roy Moore, who has charitably been called “horrific.” But even so, a typical New Year’s greeting from a political friend went, “2018 has got to be better than 2017—unless we have a nuclear war.”
As a result of the gloom, a lot of us, including me, have gotten more politically involved than ever. Conversely, I’m embarrassed to admit I neglected to absentee vote in fall 2017, elections in my home state, despite saying I would. I could claim I was too busy wringing my hands. But putting my head in the sand, at least for a few weeks, is probably a more truthful explanation. Luckily, the local and state candidates I would have voted for mostly won, according to hometown compatriots. But, had those candidates lost—and lost only by a few votes, which isn’t uncommon—my buddies would have been peeved at me for not voting.
So my sole New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to request my ballot early. Savvy mentors told me to do it online first thing in January, using either votefromabroad.org or FVAP.gov. Of course, ballot requests can be done later than that; the general election isn’t until November and even the earliest primary (Texas) isn’t until March. But requesting my ballot online January 1 would set me up to get ballots for every election I’m eligible to vote in this year, including primaries and special elections. Even better, it would put to rest that nagging little voice telling me I’d better not screw up again.
Now, here’s an earth-shattering factoid I stumbled across on the road to my ballot request: the 2018 “mid-term” election is a biggie. I guess you political savants realize this, but it came to me as a shock (albeit a pleasant shock): the entire U.S. House of Representatives is up for grabs, as well as a third of the Senate and a bunch of state legislatures, governorships and local offices. So 2018 could usher in a lot of new faces to block laws or nominees they don’t like during Trump’s third and fourth years.