Soujourn to the Ballot-box 

A couple of thirty-somethings cast their votes for the first time

I must sojourn once to the ballot-box before I die. I hear the ballot-box is a beautiful glass globe, so you can see all the votes as they go in. Now, the first time I vote I'll see if the woman's vote looks any different from the rest-if it makes any stir or commotion. If it don't inside, it need not outside.
Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883)

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves-and the only way they could do this is by not voting.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)

The day after the elections, The New York Times reported the total voter turnout at nearly 120 million people, representing just under 60 percent of eligible voters -- the highest percentage turnout since 1968.

According to the Economist, 11 percent of those were first time votes - and the majority of them were not war mongering, gay bashing, right-wing religious fanatics flocking to the polls to put their faith ahead of the health of the nation. Indeed, Kerry won first-time voters by 54 percent to 45 percent. Unfortunately, there were not enough of them.

During early elections, the Current talked to Coral Diaz and Heather Goff, both professional women in their mid-thirties who registered to vote for the first time this year. Here is what they had to say about the experience:

Coral Diaz, Graphic Designer

"I don't know, not much to tell about the voting experience. It's like getting money from an ATM machine.

It wasn't really an experience, but more like a transaction: you punch in your four digits, then there's 10 different screens, but if you choose straight party it's all set up so you just push one button. Then the light blinks, you cast your vote with another button and it's done. Three buttons: it was a little anticlimactic.

I was imagining something more, something not so automatic, where you have to be more involved. I think what I imagined was kind of old-fashioned - maybe I would have to write something down, or pick one envelope or another one. You know, kind of like how you vote for a game: write a name on a card and put it in a box. I guess that's archaic.

It was exciting because I'm 36 years old and this is not only the first time I vote in this country, but ever.

When I was 18, when it was my time to vote, it didn't coincide with election time in Spain. Then, I moved here at 21 and didn't get citizenship right away. I could have voted in the last election, but I had just moved to Texas and wasn't registered yet, so I missed the opportunity.

I registered to vote in this election because it is the most important election in my lifetime. I'm not very political, but I think that what is happening in the world right now - with the war and everything that happen in the last four years - is wrong. By voting I might help change things, it makes me feel like I'm doing something."

Heather Goff, Dermatology Resident

"I waited in line for an hour and _ - yeah, actually I didn't think it would take that long. But it was easier than I thought. Somehow, I was expecting that I'd wait 'til I got to the front of the line and then they'd tell me I wasn't allowed to vote and I'd have to go home. Somehow, the voter registration card and a driver's license didn't seem like it should be enough - like I should have to promise my first born child or something.

Because I lied to the guy I was dating about voting in the last election, that's what spurred me on to register. Basically, I felt so terrible that I registered to vote the very next day. And then I told him. Kind of a stupid thing to lie about, right? So, in a way, I voted out of peer pressure, good peer pressure: All of my friends were asking me if I was going to vote. Otherwise, I have a tendency to be sort of apathetic.

After voting, I feel a little bit more legitimate in caring about the outcome. It was a validating process.

Do I feel like more of citizen? No, I've never really felt like a citizen. But it was exciting. I was elated. I announced to the entire line 'I did it! This is my first time to vote,' and a bunch of people cheered for me. And I'm 33!"

By Susan Pagani



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