First time voting wasn’t what they said

Sam Malone

I’ll admit it: I was one of the 43 percent of eligible Americans that didn’t vote in the 2016 Presidential Election, but I did vote in the 2018 Midterm Elections; not only did I vote, but I voted for the first time in my life.

In 2016, I became eligible to vote, and information quickly overloaded my brain. I didn’t understand politics and, to be frank, I wasn’t happy with either of my options, so I chose not to vote. Two years later, I was determined not to make the same mistake and to instead become an active participant in this country’s democracy.

Voting as a college student is confusing and stressful and even though I knew I wanted to vote, I was unsure if I actually would until the moment the election judge handed me my ballot. As a matter of fact, I spent the entire day prior to election day stressing about whether or not I had messed something up and wouldn’t be able to vote in DeKalb County.

If I’m being honest, voting was never stressed in my family, but after attending two and a half years of college, I felt casting my vote was a civic duty. While my professors stressed the importance of voting and participating in local government, I still couldn’t help but wish they had taught me a little bit more about how to do that.

Overall, my experience the day of voting was quite simple. I put my college address into a search to find my polling place and got up the nerve to go and get registered. There was a strange combination of excitement and nerves as I drove the seven minutes to my polling place with anticipation filling my stomach.

I couldn’t help but smile as I walked in with my driver’s license and proof of residency, proud of myself for making it this far. The election judges filed my paperwork and smiled, asking if I was a first-time voter. My chest swelled with pride as I nodded and smiled, receiving the go-ahead to get my ballot and cast my vote.

With the pen in my hand and my empty ballot resting on the table, I took a moment to appreciate the fact that I was allowed this opportunity. Sure, it was anxiety-inducing up until this point, but I was going to vote.

In Saudi Arabia, women received the right to vote just three years ago. In Russia, voting rights continue to be restricted and blurred. In Rwanda, 97.5 percent of eligible voters showed up to do their part in the 2010 election, according to GlobalCitizen.org. I want to be part of a democracy that votes, and if I’m going to ask that of others, I recognize my responsibility to vote as well.

Yes, it was scary to vote for the first time, but it was also significantly simpler than I believed it would be. I waited until the utmost last second like any procrastinating college student might, but my voting experience, registering and all, took little more than 30 minutes to complete.

I researched, I registered and I believe I made a difference. Don’t let myths stop you from casting your vote; be an active and informed participant in American democracy, and take the few minutes required to feel the engrossing pride of being a first-time voter.