Preparing to vote

Bush or Kerry. Democrat or Republican. That’s how you know it’s election season.

I have been looking forward to voting since I was 11 years old. I remember my mom giving me her “I Voted” sticker every time she voted and thinking that it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I wanted to one day earn that sticker on my own.

Two months before my 18th birthday, I preregistered to vote when an election group came to my high school. A week after I turned 18, I received my voter registration card in the mail. I was so excited to know that I could and would be able to vote in the 2004 elections.

With voting comes much responsibility, especially if you take the task seriously. I had the chance to vote in the primary elections before coming to USF and spent time researching the candidates to make sure I was making informed decisions.

I spent an afternoon and evening researching candidates via their Web sites. I read their stances on issues, especially education, the environment and taxes. I researched their political backgrounds to ensure they had experience in politics and knew what they were doing. I also read their biographies, which gave me a good idea from where the candidates are coming.

After voting in the primaries, I gave my brain a rest. All the information about candidates was overwhelming, and at times I found myself getting candidates mixed up. My mistake in voting in the primaries was that I was not staying as informed as I should have been. You learn from your mistakes and move on.

So what was there to move on to? This year’s presidential election. The big one.

I knew that with the presidential election, I owed it to myself to stay informed and to make sure that I was confident and satisfied with my choice for president. I didn’t know where to start, though. Debates, press conferences, campaign commercials–there is so much propaganda thrown everywhere.

Over the summer, my support for a presidential candidate went to Rep. Dennis Kucinich from Ohio. I was very impressed with him based on his debating skills, his platform and what he stood for. I knew that he probably wouldn’t be on the presidential ballot in November, but I supported him nonetheless.

I knew I needed to start doing some serious research.

I started where I knew I could find a lot of information at once: the Internet. President George W. Bush’s Web site was the first I visited because he is our current president. If I had voted in the 2000 election, I probably wouldn’t have chosen Bush. However, I didn’t vote, so I can’t complain.

I went to John Kerry’s Web site next. I was just about as unimpressed with his platform as I was Bush’s. After visiting both Web sites, I knew where each candidate stood on the issues, but I knew that I still couldn’t make a decision. I needed more information.

With Bush and Kerry on the ticket now, along with candidates for the Independent, Socialist, Green and Constitution parties, I know that my vote is going to be important. I think the best thing our generation can do is to support the person whom they think is the most qualified to hold the title of president and to not let anyone tell us differently. Listen to what others have to say, but make the decision on your own. Every vote does count, and this was demonstrated in the 2000 election.

Today is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election, and if you don’t register to vote this year, please do so for future elections so that you can have a say. If you are registered, please make sure you take the time to vote. If you can’t make it to your voting precinct, request an absentee ballot.

Don’t be lazy, and don’t make excuses for not voting. It’s quick, painless and one of the most important things you can do.

Olivia Hattan is a freshman majoring in mass communications.