Young Voters Confident Despite Inexperience
By Maresa Whitehead
S.C. college-age women don’t know the basics about their assigned polling places, but do know which candidate to support. So, they think they are ready to vote.
Many 18- to 22-year-olds will be casting their first ballot in the 2008 presidential election. The S.C. Election Commission said 310,000 new voters have registered since Jan. 1, up from 198,000 new voters in 2004.
Danielle Doucet, like other young S.C. voters, participated in mock elections during high school. She used a voting machine during the mock elections and knows that she needs to present identification, such as her voter registration card or driver’s license, at her polling place. She is not nervous about voting.
“This is the first time I’ve voted so it will be special to me,” said Doucet, a stage manager at the Main Street Youth Theater on Hilton Head Island, her temporary home.
“I’m driving three hours to go vote [with] my family, so I’m doing about six hours of driving that day and hopefully eating dinner at some point!” said 22-year-old Doucet, a resident of Aiken.
“I’m more excited that I am voting with my family because I’m hoping this will become a tradition that will make my brother vote in the next election as well,” said Doucet. Her brother’s birthday is on Election Day, and he’ll be casting his first vote.
Because Doucet will be going to the polls with her family, she is unaware of some other key information about voting: She doesn’t know where her polling place is, nor is she aware that it will be open only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This is the case with other college-age voters, such as 18-year-old Anna Evans. “I know where to go, but I do not know the name of it,” said Evans, a student at Midlands Technical College.
“I think I’m prepared enough,” said Evans.
Tara Williamson said her lack of knowledge will keep her from voting. “I decided not to vote because I keep going back and forth between candidates.
“I don’t feel like I have looked over the information enough to make my vote count,” added Williamson, a 22-year-old student at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Doucet said, “If someone is old enough to vote for the president then they should be responsible for educating themselves.”
Online election resources aim to make it easy. Check out websites such as votesmart.org (http://www.votesmart.org) and rockthevote.com (http://www.rockthevote.com). These websites post pictures and instructions on voting-related subjects. Youtube.com (http://www.youtube.com) also provides a video that outlines the voting process. To find local voting information, visit http://www.scvotes.org/2008/07/31/2008_general_election_information_voters.
Maresa Whitehead, 22, is a senior at Columbia College. She is an English major with an emphasis in business and professional writing.