Voting to make a difference

Today’s election will be the first chance for many students to get involved in the political process. Whether cast by absentee ballots or by going to the polls, many first-time voters are looking forward to supporting their preferred candidates.

“I think first-timers should look at voting as a civic responsibility,” said political science professor Festus Ohaegbulam. “They should feel proud to be part of making history.”

Ohaegbulam remembers the first time he voted in the United States. He said it was a little nerve-wracking, but he asked volunteers for help and everything turned out OK.

“Afterwards, I felt satisfied that I cast my ballot,” he said. “Today, I’m looking forward to voting for a change in direction.”

Political science professor Kiki Caruson did not go to the polls for the first time until 1996, which she said was an “anti-climactic” experience since former president Bill Clinton had the clear advantage over his opponent. Before that, she always voted through an absentee ballot because she was out of town either for college or work.

She believes this election will be much different at the polls than in 1996 because there is a higher push for voter turnout.

“People weren’t as energized when I went for the first time,” Caruson said. “I think it’s going to be very busy at the polls this time though.”

Voting participation records have already been broken with early voting. Most likely, voter turnout will break records at the polls as well. Caruson advises to be prepared when going to vote so each vote counts.

“I think that in this particular election, the most important thing students should pay attention to is that they vote in the correct precinct, and that if you are challenged, to fill out a provisional ballot in the correct precinct,” she said.

Some students, like sophomore Amy Soth, are worried that their ballots won’t be counted, since she sent in her absentee ballot last week and does not know if it will reach her precinct in time. Soth was one of the students duped by campaign volunteers into switching her party affiliation to Republican, even though she was a registered Democrat. However, she said these concerns would not prevent her from voting in the future.

“My parents always encouraged me to get involved in politics and pay attention to what was going on,” Soth said.

Sophomore Tiffany Miller feels the absentee ballot is a hassle, but she will vote for Sen. John Kerry because she agrees with his environmental policies. She said President George W. Bush has done nothing for the environment as an environmental science major, she believes Kerry’s plan is more conscious of her concerns.

Miller is not the only student voting for a candidate for a personal reason. Senior Mike Williams, a history major, is voting for President Bush simply because of partisanship. His vote will reflect his support for the Republican Party.

Some students are not interested in voting at all. Bobby Derie, who has never voted before and will not today, said he wouldn’t vote because he doesn’t like any of the candidates.

“I don’t see anything about them that appeals to me,” Derie said.

He also doesn’t think his lack of participation will have an effect on the political process because he believes the Electoral College is the true decider in the end. However, he admits to not having done any research.

Louisha Barnette, a senior triple-majoring in biochemistry, microbiology and Africana studies, said she registered to vote when Michael Moore came to visit on campus. She said she was not aware that she only had to reside in a city for 30 days to register.

“I just feel it’s important to exercise your right to vote, especially for minorities like African-Americans since we have lost so many people fighting for the right to be able to do this,” she said.

Barnette plans to go to the polls alone, but others are going with friends. Sophomore Perin Kea said he most likely will go with friends and vote for Sen. Kerry.

“I think if we stick with Bush, the worst is yet to come,” Kea said.

Whoever first time voters choose to vote for, Ohaegbulam said they should feel satisfaction because they took part in the election.