A little before 9 a.m. on Election Day, I will ride my ancient Nishiki bike the two blocks to the Westminster Presbyterian Church on the Alameda to vote in my 11th presidential election.

I will wait in line and connect the arrows to make my choice. I will watch as my ballot is shoved into the box. Fighting the tide of popular culture, I resist becoming a mail-in voter.

This is not all about the "I voted" sticker they hand out when you're done. A piece of it is that I'm a traditionalist with Luddite tendencies. I admit to carrying a beeper.

As I think about why I cherish this ritual -- and prefer it to marking my ballot at the kitchen table -- three more central reasons stand out.

FAMILY -- I no longer have my four kids at home. When I did, I made a point of taking one of them along to vote, talking through my choices beforehand.

This courts peril. One year, I wound up voting for Pete Wilson instead of Dianne Feinstein because my daughter punched the wrong box. Although I probably could have gotten a new ballot, it felt wrong.

Voting in person reminds me of that heritage. Only one of my four kids is not registered to vote this fall -- and that might be because I didn't take him often enough. (Oddly, he is my one Republican child).

I'm hoping to vote someday with a grandkid. With a verbal grandson now 11/2, I figure it might not be too far away. By 2016, he can pick a president. In person.

PROFESSION -- By nature and experience, journalists hew to skepticism. And sending in a ballot by mail has always demanded more faith than voting in person.

How do I know someone won't misplace my absentee ballot? What if an official rejects my signature? While putting a ballot into the box does not assure you'll be counted, it feels more reassuring.

Add an old political writer's bias. There is always a chance, particularly in local races, that a last-minute development may sway your vote. A hero may emerge as a goat, a cherished cause as a ruse.

Why avoid the fun by voting too early? It's like switching off a college football game on TV with two minutes left.

And sorry, turning in an absentee ballot at a polling station -- as I might be likely to do -- is the worst possible choice. It means that your ballot will be counted last. Unless the race is as close as the 2010 DA's race in Santa Clara County, the winners will already be clear.

COMMUNITY -- When I see the lines of people waiting outside the polls in places like Iraq, I am reminded that voting is essentially a communal event, an act of faith in an imperfect system.

So I am more than willing to put up with inconveniences -- a line down the steps, a polling official struggling with unfamiliar paperwork -- to take part in that shared duty.

At the end, I have a greater feeling of our appreciation for democracy -- of our willingness to let the majority decide who should represent us, even in polarized times. I see my neighbors, and suspect they share my political convictions. Even if they don't, I know we're in this together.

Did I mention the "I voted'' sticker? I don't put it on, or at least not for very long. It feels corny to me. But I like getting it. It's my validation, my elevator pitch, my quiet proof of concept. I plan to stick it on a kitchen appliance this year.

Contact Scott Herhold at 408-275-0917 or sherhold@mercurynews.com. Twitter.com/scottherhold.