You must be this tall to vote for president

Welcome to the 2004 Election Experience. You must be at least 18 years old to ride. Please make sure your hands and feet are within the booth at all times. Ensure your minds are securely fastened. Enjoy the ride. And don’t forget to hold on. It is going to get crazy.

Sometime during the last four years it has become apparent that voting for president in Florida is not a nuisance. Or at least it shouldn’t be, because, if you ask me, it is actually fun. Fun because we know the race will be close. Fun because it is entirely possible a single vote could decide the election.

As a result, most other states are insanely jealous. How can they not be? It’s because most Americans struggle with a nagging feeling their vote does not matter. Most Americans live in states that have already decided on President George W. Bush or Sen. John Kerry. On Tuesday, most Americans will trudge slowly to the voting booths, cast their ballots with a frown and then go home to weep quietly. I know this from experience. I have lived the life of a meaningless voter and it is no day at Disney.

In 2000, as an 18-year-old resident of New York, my vote was not even counted, because it was not needed. Since I voted as an absentee and the margin Gore led Bush by was larger than the number of absentee ballots, nobody bothered to count my ballot. Democracy had just slapped me on the butt and told me better luck next time.

In 2002, I lucked out when I moved to Florida. That’s because a single vote matters here. A single vote is significant (insert Palm Beach County joke here). We count. Even if we have trouble counting.

We should be proud of how much we matter. We should embrace it, and we should brag about it. We are living the democracy dream. Let’s just hope this time it doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

In 2000, Bush won Florida by 537 votes. There are high school prom queen elections with wider margins. Just look at these numbers: 537 people would fill .008 percent of Raymond James Stadium, which holds roughly 65,657 people. 537 people would constitute more than 1 percent of USF’s 41,000 students. Combine a few of your classes and you will get more than 537 people.

537 votes, guys– if that is not reason enough to want to vote, then nothing is. Take Utah, for example, where Democrats are almost extinct (Bush has a whopping 37-point lead). It is why Bush and Kerry will never step foot in the Beehive State and why they have been to the land of sunshine several times.

We’re like an only child: We get all the attention. Of course, the attention is not always positive. Like when we delayed a presidential election by more than a month; that wasn’t so good. America was not very sympathetic. But like I stated before, those other states are just envious. We have the beaches, warm weather and a tight race. Life is good.

In Maine, where Kerry holds an 11-point lead, temperatures are approaching freezing. Yes, confirming what you always thought — life sucks in Maine.

Sure, there are other battleground states, but none match Florida’s 27 electoral votes (Ohio, with 20 electoral votes, has the second most). And only Iowa can boast a tighter race. In Florida, as of Oct. 27, Kerry holds a three-point lead in the ARG poll and a two-point lead in the USA Today poll, and Rasmussen has him tied with Bush.

Needless to say, it is going to be a wild journey, full of loops, corkscrews and several ups and downs. There will be yells of pain and cries of joy. Not to mention plenty of vomit.

So disregard Sea World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Disney World. Forget Dueling Dragons, Space Mountain and Kraken — Florida’s biggest thrill ride arrives Tuesday.

John Calkins is a junior majoring in mass communications.