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My Turn: With mask and gloves, it's still a privilege to vote

I was a senior in high school in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, when my social studies teacher convinced me and my classmates who were 18 years old to register to vote.

Our group met with representatives from the Board of Elections to register to vote, and we were trained to register our classmates. We were seated at a table in the school cafeteria and registered seniors who were of age.

My parents taught me voting was important. As a child I remember going with them to the elementary school where they voted. My earliest election recollection was John Kennedy versus Richard Nixon. My mom, who used a wheelchair because of polio, was able to vote by absentee ballot when going to the school became too difficult. I continued to accompany my dad, going inside the gray metal voting machine with him. I helped pull the big red handle to close and open the curtain. In later years, when my dad drove to the polling place, he offered to drive our neighbors.

In November 1974, I was the one standing alone in the voting booth in the position directed by the red arrow on the yellow sticker. I was now the one flipping the black levers. In 1976, I voted in my first presidential election: Jimmy Carter versus Gerald Ford.

I volunteered for my local state assembly, city council and congressional candidates. With a girl from school I thought was cute, I handed out campaign flyers and went door-to-door with petitions for candidates to be on the ballot. One year, I watched election night coverage from my local campaign headquarters. I was inspired, and I considered a political career. I was going to make a difference. "Congressman Lev" sounded nice. I had a platform in support of the arts, education and helping the disabled. I would be a delegate from New York at the presidential conventions.

My career in politics ended before it even got started. I was passed over for district captain. Many of my local representatives left for other careers, moved to higher office without me or got caught up in a scandal. Disillusioned with politics, I decided if I couldn't make a difference inside the state Capitol, I would vote for the people I thought could.

I often wonder if I would have been elected.

When I moved to Long Island, my wife and I made sure we updated our voting records to East Meadow. We encouraged our children to register to vote when they turned 18.

Voting has changed through the years. Optical-scanning machines replaced the gray metal voting machines. The binders that had the history of my signatures have been replaced as I sign in electronically with a stylus on a tablet.

Although I voted by mail for the school board and budget, my family walked with me to our local elementary school wearing our masks and gloves and voted in person in the June 23 primary.

On Nov. 3, l will vote in person with a mask and gloves, receive my "I Voted Today" sticker, and hopefully, the PTA will have its bake sale.

Howard Lev,

East Meadow

YOUR STORY Letters and essays for My Turn are original works (of up to 600 words) by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email act2@newsday.com. Include name, address, phone numbers and photos if available. Edited stories may be republished in any format.

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