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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First-time voters head to the polls

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

SIKESTON -- For most people who exercise their rights to vote, the process of casting a ballot is pretty much routine.

But for several young voters in the area, today will be the first time they'll step into the voting booth.

High school senior Wayne Guthrie said he's excited about voting in today's election and thinks it's important to exercise his right to vote because everyone counts in this country.

"I feel it is important because it's a right that they gave us and in some countries they don't have that right and would do anything to vote," said the 18-year-old who got most of his information to vote from commercials and presidential reviews.

The biggest advice Scott County Clerk Rita Milam can give first-time voters -- and even experienced voters -- is not to forget their proof of identification because no one will be allowed to vote if they don't have it, she said.

Scott County has registered 2,700 voters ages 18-24, according to Milam, who pointed out there is a difference between registering to vote and actually voting.

Tradd Hess said he'll be one who is actually voting today. Among the issues he's most worried about include the economy, health and the war in Iraq, adding he got his information from independent, unbiased sources.

"I think everyone who is eligible to vote should research the issues and the candidates stances on the issues and make a decision based on what they think is best," said Hess, 18.

Hess said he thinks voting is important because any decision affects a person's future. However, he said he doesn't think people should vote if they are uninformed.

Despite Guthrie's and Hess' enthusiasm, the number of young people voting has been on a decline. Since 1972, when the voting age was dropped to 18, young people have been increasingly disinterested in casting a ballot for president. Turnout hit an all-time low in 2000, when an estimated 42 percent of voters 18- to 24-year olds went to the polls. That compares with 70 percent of adults 25 and older who voted that year, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, based at the University of Maryland.

Eighteen-year-old Chris Hubbard admitted he doesn't plan on voting and said he "just doesn't get into these elections." "I don't think anybody's vote matters," said the Scott County resident.

Sikeston Senior High School social studies teacher Pam Frericks said she's noticed mixed feelings about voting among her students.

"A lot of 18-year-olds will register to vote and for some of them, that's the first they want to do when they turn 18. Some of my students feel it's an honor to be able to vote, and I think they will exercise that right (today)," Frericks said.

Of course Frericks also has students on the opposite end of the spectrum, and thinks there's a reason for their lack of interest.

"I think some (students) don't care because they don't know enough about the issues or candidates, and there are some who are just not in tune to current events so they don't vote," Frericks said.

Most area high schools have registration clerks set up within the schools so students who were eligible could register to vote.

And many area schools like Sikeston Senior High School recently conducted a mock election to encourage students to get involved in politics.

Frericks said she found some of the students were clearly Republican or Democrat, and then there were some who just picked whoever. She has also noticed more interest by students in the statewide and national candidates than in the local races.

But Guthrie couldn't wait to vote in all the races today. "For this being my first time being able to vote, I'll feel glad I did it -- no matter the outcome -- because I at least had a say."