First-time voters speak out

Published 10:37 am Monday, November 10, 2008

What does it feel like to vote for the very first time?

“It felt really good,” said 45-year-old Debra Stubbs.

She had never taken the time to register to vote—that is, not until this year. Never mind that her husband, Larry Stubbs, has been a poll worker for six years.

“I just never took the time,” said Debra, who added that if her sister-in-law, Euzira Stubbs, hadn’t brought her a registration form she probably wouldn’t have done it this year either, except her husband really wanted to be sure she got registered to vote.

Debra Stubbs said part of her reluctance to register was that she had always been told that if you registered and were in the computer you would be called for jury duty, and she didn’t want to do that.

Stubbs said she was also encouraged when her 17-year-old daughter, Andrea, had written a paper at school on women’s suffrage. “It brought to my attention what they went through to get women the right to vote.”

“All voting is important, but this year I felt the presidency was very, very important. It is a big election—the presidency,” said Stubbs. “I felt like Obama was my choice for the presidency, and I also voted for others I knew.”

Stubbs admits she was a little nervous standing in line Tuesday morning because she didn’t know what to do, but the workers helped her. When she walked out from voting she felt like a burden had been lifted off her. “I wore my voter tag all day and it felt really good.”

Stubbs said her daughters, ages 9, 17 and 20, were all happy Obama won the election.

“You wouldn’t think young people would care, but they did. Obama really touched a lot of people—black, white, young and old,” she added.

Euzira Stubbs said she felt good knowing Obama was running for president. She thought the country needed a change and that at least he should be given a chance.

She made it a personal mission to encourage people to go vote. She asked all she met if they were registered and said she found quite a few who were not. Her mother-in-law, Adel Stubbs, who turns 84 this month, has never voted. Euzira brought her a registration form and got her registered, but because she didn’t have a photo ID she was not able to vote.

She told of another 80-year-old lady who said she had never voted, and she didn’t vote this time either, saying she was afraid to do so.

All in all, Euzira said she talked to a lot of people and she felt good about it, like she had done a good deed.

Other first-timers

Several Bainbridge High School seniors were also first time voters.

Kayla Cox describes herself as a history buff. She said she was excited about this election because she knew it would be an historical event, whichever way it went. It would either be the first African-American president, or the first female vice-president.

She voted early on election day. She said she knew going in who she wanted to voted for. The debates she listened to and the research she did on Web sites reinforced her decision. She did listen to the news, but said you can’t let that be your guide, as she felt newscasters were biased. Discussions in economics class and a U.S. history class she is taking at Bainbridge College gave her additional information. She explained she voted for McCain because, “I’m a Christian and I liked his values. He’s against abortion and gay rights, and I agree with him on that.”

Megan Bell was also excited about being able to vote for the first time. She described it as a privilege to vote and give your word about the presidency and other candidates.

“You can’t just go vote. You have to know about the issues,” she said. She watched some of the debates, news programs and discussed issues with her parents. She felt both candidates made good points, but she favored more of Obama’s views, especially about making changes and improving the economy. She voted early on election day and said it felt good. “What you say counts,” she added.

Garrett Weaver said he took advantage of early voting, accompanied by his aunt and grandma.

“It felt good that my voice got heard.” His choice was McCain, “because he is a Christian and a veteran.” He said his parents are Republican and he also voted the Republican ticket.

Jarek Fleming voted on election day and found it exciting.

“I got a thrill out of seeing the process. It was empowering,” said the young man who loves politics and has a desire to be the governor of Georgia some day.

His family had political discussions during dinner time, he watches CNN every day, and he also participated in class discussions prior to the election. He chose Obama because he believes it is time for a change. He described Obama as having more modern ideas and up-to-date policies.

Fleming said he felt the preferences of the students at school pretty much followed along racial lines and found it divisive before the election. He said there was also a big reaction the day after the election, but he thinks the country will unite now and work together.

Ben Reynolds gave his opinion that it was an important duty to vote. To prepare, he watched a lot of news and kept up with current events. He described his family as politically homogenous, but said his parents left it up to him to make his own decisions. He voted for McCain because he felt he would have been a better leader, with more experience, and liked his policies more—especially lower taxes.

He admitted he was not happy that his candidate lost, but said the majority prevails. He added he was open to see how Obama will do in office, and things could be different in four years.

All the first-time voters demonstrated an awareness of the significance of being able to participate in this very historical and nation-changing election.