O'BRIEN: High school seniors eager to step into real voting booths

Posted: Nov. 2, 2012 8:39 pm Updated: Dec. 15, 2012 1:15 am

Measha Ferguson-Smith is looking forward to spending some time with her family today. The Quincy High School senior and her family are going to head to the Adams County Courthouse and vote.

Ferguson-Smith is among the youngest block of voters who will decide whether Barack Obama gets a second term in office or if Mitt Romney will put the Republicans back in charge of the White House. Being able to head to the polls and vote is something that Ferguson-Smith has been looking forward to for quite some time.

"My family is definitely politically involved and we try to be politically knowledgeable," Ferguson-Smith said. "My father has always taken his right to vote very seriously simply because we haven't had it for very long, being African-Americans."

Ferguson-Smith and other high school seniors who get to trade those mock elections they have done throughout the school years in for the real deal are a rare breed.

In 1988, I turned 18 a month before the presidential election. Having the ability to vote for the first time was a big thing for me. I was excited to have a say in whether George H.W. Bush took over for his old boss, Ronald Reagan, or if Michael Dukakis and the Democrats would pull the upset.

High school seniors today aren't much different than I was nearly a quarter century ago. Being able to walk into that voting booth and know that their voice is being heard is still pretty cool.

"I think it's very exciting," said Hannibal High School senior Ashley Cummins. "I finally get to voice my opinion and help out our country a little bit."

Max Naughton is a senior at Quincy High School. His family has lived abroad for much of his life. He spent eight years in Switzerland and also spent time in Singapore since his family has had to move because of his father's job. He didn't know if he would ever get to vote, let alone so early.

"It's an interesting power to have," Naughton said. "You have a choice and a say in a nation. A lot of people see that power and don't give it enough magnitude to where it should be. This is you deciding your future depending on a candidate."

Hannibal High School senior Brent Curtis probably wouldn't be heading to the polls on Tuesday if it wasn't for his grandparents. His grandmother, Jane Riefesel, took him to register. He gets all of his information from his grandfather, Mike.

"(Politics) is all he ever talks about," Curtis said.

All but Curtis said they have been paying close attention to the happenings leading up to the election. Some of them can't get away from it, and don't mind a bit.

"When we get home from work. When we get home from school, our TVs are on Fox, MSNBC, we are trying to take in all of the information," Ferguson-Smith said. "You have to stay aware because things happen so quickly in politics that if you miss two or three days you are out of the loop."

All said they hadn't paid too much attention to races on the local or state level.

In 2008 when Obama won his first term, the youth vote was credited for being a big reason why he pushed past John McCain and into the Oval Office. According to a Gallup Poll, only 58 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 said they were planning to vote. That's 20 percent below the national average as 78 percent of those polled by Gallup said they expected to vote. In a similar Gallup poll in 2008, 78 percent of those in the 18-29 voting block said they were planning to vote.

The high school seniors said they were eager to see how the races turn out on Tuesday. No matter what happens, being able to vote signifies another step toward adulthood for all of them.

"It will be very sentimental, I'm sure, for my parents," Ferguson-Smith said.




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