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Electing to vote for the first time

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2008-09-30

By Brett Borden
Assistant Director, News Services

I remember vividly the first presidential election I was eligible to vote in. It was Ronald Reagan versus Walter Mondale in 1984. At 19, I wasn’t quite aware of how these things play out. Each week something happened that made me think, “Wow, that just turned this whole thing around.” When election day came around, Reagan won in a landslide, just as people said he would in the beginning.

I didn’t vote then and I haven’t voted since. Unfortunately the cause has been procrastination, not protest. Every four years I have had a preference…some won, some lost…but I never felt the sense of urgency to go through the whole process.

Now, thanks to a concerted effort by Wofford president Bernie Dunlap and academic Dean David Wood, spearheaded by professors Christine Dinkins and Dave Pittman, I have decided I am going to exercise my right to vote for the first time. All those excuses I have resorted to every four years -- my vote won’t make a difference, the only thing I’ll get out of it is a call for jury duty, etc. – have lost out this election. And it’s not just because of the amazing historical drama playing out between the Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin tickets.

“This happens to be an exciting and dramatic election this year on all levels, not just the presidential level,” says Dinkins. “Even if that weren’t the case, though, Dave and I felt it was important as a liberal arts college that we step forward and be part of the democratic process. We wanted to find some neutral way to do that, and so we thought ‘What better way to do it than a voter registration drive?’ There was already a separate organized student drive going on and we didn’t want to interfere with that. We wanted to focus on employees and our goal is to make sure that 100 percent of employees get invited to register.”

It’s all voluntary, so people’s privacy is protected. It’s also educational. You’d be surprised how many people out there are like myself, people who didn’t go through the registration process early in life and simply fell into the habit of not participating. Speaking for myself, the drama of the hotly contested 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was a tremendous wake up call.

“We’re trying to tell people why it’s worth it,” says Dinkins. “Your vote does count. So many races in South Carolina have been extremely close lately. There was one this past April for a primary that was decided by one vote. Some of the major races have been decided by 50 votes in this state. We’re trying to help people realize that your vote does indeed count and it’s worth all the effort.”

Truth is, I just registered September 30 and there wasn’t a whole lot of effort involved. I just filled out a form and I’m good to go, with five days to spare. The deadline is October 4, so I encourage anyone else out there to register if you haven’t. Don’t leave the choice up to everyone else again. Be a part of it this time, and every time going forward.

Oh, and that jury duty thing? It’s a myth. South Carolina draws from the pool of those who have driver’s licenses. Now you have no excuse left.