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I was the among the first group of 18-year-olds to vote

Posted Monday, October 29, 2012, at 3:19 PM

This coming Tuesday, Nov. 6, is Election Day and the nation's registered voters will go to polls to make some very important choices.

As Election Day approaches I'm always reminded of my senior year in high school -- 1971 -- the year the 26th U.S. Constitutional Amendment became law.

I was in the first class of 18-year-olds who were given the right to vote.

The 26th Amendment reads:

"The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."

It was a municipal election the first time I voted. My first vote was cast by paper ballot in a small precinct in the Perry County community of Tell City. The polling place was at a senior citizen's center that was actually the bathhouse to the old swimming pool when I was growing up.

The following year, 1972, was the first year I had a chance to cast my ballot for a president.

It was a big deal.

Republican Richard Nixon was seeking re-election to a second term and he was matched up against Democrat George McGovern, who passed away last week.

Nixon won handily with 520 Electoral College votes to just 17 for McGovern.

Prior to going to the polls for the first time my dear Uncle Irvin ---- who was as die-hard of a Democrat as you would ever meet ---- offered me some wise advice.

He said, "Always vote or you really don't have any reason to complain about the way things are going in government."

I was also told not to be bashful about, as he said, "voting out the rascals."

Meaning, if I didn't like the way those already in office were handling things, vote them out and get someone qualified, who shared my views, in the offices.

I've always tried to look hard at all incumbents to make sure they have done what they have pledged or promised to do.

My uncle knew and believed that elected officials worked for him ---- even though he toiled as a mechanic and tire re-treader to make ends meet for more than 50 years. When that trust was betrayed by their voting records, he always said vote them out.

I remember from an early age spending hours at a small table in my uncle's kitchen talking politics, looking over newspaper articles and paging through magazines that he had saved for me. He loved politics and enjoyed talking about the events in Washington D.C. and Indianapolis.

My uncle, even though he had only an eighth-grade education, often reminded me that those of his own generation had fought in foreign wars to preserve our freedoms, liberties and democracy.

He considered it a personal duty to vote and I would venture to say, he never missed a chance to voice his opinion at the ballot box.

Uncle Irvin is gone now, but the advice he gave me has stuck with me.

He taught me it was important for everyone to vote every election -- Democrats, Republicans, Independents and those supporting "third party" candidates.

We've heard a lot of talk and promises from the presidential candidates this year about this being "the most important election of a lifetime."

I would disagree.

All elections are important.

Your vote holds your local and national leaders accountable for the decisions they make.

Your vote sends a message about the issues you think are important.

Your vote affirms our rights as free citizens to elect our government and take part in democracy.

The decisions you make Nov. 6 will have global consequences in the case of our selection of a president and vice president.

We will be picking an entire slate of U.S. Congress members and in the state of Indiana we'll be choosing a governor, lieutenant governor, superintendent of public instruction, and all our state representatives.

In his memorable Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln called democracy "government of the people, by the people and for the people."

That means we are not here to serve our government. Our government is here to serve us.

Too many times those seeking office forget that. The ballot box is the place to make our voice heard.

We have the right to decide who will represent us and how we want to be represented.

It means that each one of us has one of the greatest rights any free people can enjoy ---- the right to vote.

My Uncle Irvin was right. Elections are important and we all need to vote and take part in this cherished part of democracy.

Nick is assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at schneider.nick@gmail.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @GCDWSchneider .

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Nick your article is so accurate and meaningful. Unfortunately, many in our country,(area), do not feel voting is meaningful. In fact, voter apathy has become the new normal among many citizens who do not believe things can be changed. Change can and always needs to occur, not randomly, but thru the election process. I encourage those with voter apathy to select just one issue they feel strongly about. Select the candidate whom supports this issue and vote for them. Sit back and watch how one can make things change. It is just a start. Next election select two issues. Encourage your family and friends to participate.

-- Posted by mr obvious on Sat, Nov 3, 2012, at 8:25 AM

Very good column, Nick. I was part of that same group of voters back in '72, eager to participate in the political process. After Watergate, however, I was disillusioned with our government and did not vote again for over a decade.

I regretted that, and I encourage young voters to not make my mistake, participate. It is the only way that your voices can become known.

-- Posted by Lil' Hahn on Thu, Nov 1, 2012, at 11:25 AM

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