Voting has big effect on student first-timers
POSTED: Monday, December 22, 2008
Forty years ago, a U.S. citizen had to be 21 to vote. Today, the 26th amendment gives Americans 18 and older the right to vote. For those who made the cutoff, the 2008 election was an exciting step into the adult world of civic responsibility and political awareness. It was a compelling election for underage high school students as well.
Senior Carrie Tribble had been looking forward to Nov. 4 for a long time.
"After the 2004 election, I calculated the time and discovered I could vote in 2008," she said. "Since then, I have looked forward to voting as a first expression of citizenship."
This election was particularly important for many Punahou students. "Voting for the first time was empowering. I was superglad I got to vote in this historical presidential election," said senior Toby Ishizuka.
Senior Hunter Hunt agreed but was disappointed by the lack of voter participation.
"Many people in our country take voting for granted. This election had the first black presidential candidate from a major party and the possibility of a female vice president, yet voter turnout fell well below predictions," he explained. "Voting is the peoples' chance to govern themselves and have a say in the running of their country. Voting isn't just a right or a privilege; it is a duty."
Some consider voting a rite of passage. "When you turn 18 you become an adult. When you vote you become an official American," declared Ishizuka.
Senior Marie Bellamy concurred. "You finally make a big decision: choosing your country's president. I don't think there's a decision more mature than that!"
However, Tribble reminded us that voting by itself does not mean anything. "Voting, like many other activities, is part of a process. When done correctly, voting shows an acceptance of responsibility to our country. When done in jest, voting can just as easily become a mark of immaturity," she said.
Voting for the first time can be a bewildering experience. "I think the most important thing for people to remember is that they must make an informed decision," Hunt said. "Vote on the issues; do research and see what the candidates really stand for, or what their prior associations were and what their voting records are. Something as important as the presidency of the United States should not be a popularity contest!"
For two new voters, casting the ballot was an emotional event. Tribble said, "At first I felt it was a bit anti-climatic, standing in line for an hour and not even getting a sticker! Then, I realized I was doing exactly what I had been waiting for the past four years."
Hunt said, "I was so excited, I almost cried. I felt so proud to be doing something as important as my civic duties."