What turning 18 really means

Oct. 6, 2004, midnight | By Zahra Gordon | 16 years, 1 month ago

Blazers exercise their right to vote

For those bent on seeking independence, turning 18 means not having to listen to parents. For those who enjoy the occasional smoke, it means being able to buy and smoke cigarettes legally. However, for the more politically minded, such as the 212 eligible Blazers, in view of the 2004 presidential election, turning 18 most importantly means gaining suffrage rights.

Not only do Blair teachers and students advocate voting, but also nationally, young people are seeing more and more the importance of exercising their right to vote. With the war in Iraq becoming a larger priority for the government, there is especially a fear among adolescents involving the reinstatement of the draft; they see this issue as becoming more pertinent to their immediate future as American adults.

The trend of 18-year-olds exercising their right to vote is growing in the state and in the nation. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement, in the 1996 presidential election, 26 percent of 18- through 24-year-olds turned out in Maryland and 24 percent turned out nationally. In the 2000 presidential election, however, those numbers jumped to 42 percent in both Maryland and the U.S. as a whole.

Senior Sara Bradley is ecstatic that she can finally exercise her rights. "I can't wait to vote," says Bradley wholeheartedly. "Last election, we got gypped." And though she claims not to be very politically active, she likes to be knowledgeable on current events and believes that it is extremely necessary that 18-year-olds participate in the election process. "I think it's very important people my age vote because we're pretty much deciding how our future is run," says Bradley. "If you don't vote and Bush wins and he reinstates the draft, you're 18. That could be you, but then there's nothing you can do because you didn't vote."

History teacher Lansing Freeman believes in the importance of youth voting. "Your vote is your voice in a representative democracy," says Freeman. "If you want change, both life and politics are not spectator sports; you must be a participant." Freeman adds that 18-year-olds should consider the war and failing economy as incentives to vote. "If I were 18, I would be concerned about U.S. military deployment to places like Iraq, which might involve my friends or even me," Freeman hypothesizes. "I'd also be worried about the growing federal deficit, as someone must eventually pay the bill, and it might be me."

Freeman and Bradley are not the only ones concerned with the draft in this upcoming election. Senior Julianna Allen says that the issue of military action in Iraq had an impact on her desire to vote. "The war directly affects us [as 18-year-olds], especially males, because of the draft," Allen warns.

Allen says she gets her political gene from her parents. "Sometimes they make jokes like, 'If you don't vote, we'll kick you out,'" says Allen. But having politically aware parents was not Allen's only incentive to vote; she received a free cookie after filling out her registration form.

Eighteen-year-olds are not the only ones who aspire to vote. Allen adds that she has many friends who wish to exercise their rights but have to wait until next year because they are not of age. "I get a lot of envy, like, 'You can vote. I envy you,'" says Allen.

Although youth voting has increased in the state, not everyone is moving along with these lines. Senior Arturo Jimenez is eligible to vote in the upcoming election but has decided not to do so because he feels his opinion is not significant. "My vote doesn't make a difference," says Jimenez. "A lot of those issues don't even affect me."

Jimenez says that even though his parents vote, their actions do not encourage him to do so. He adds that he has friends who are eligible to vote as well but who are not registered and do not wish to cast a ballot.

No matter the outcome of the election and no matter their positions on the main themes of the 2004 presidential election, many 18-year-old Blazers will remember this year especially as the year they took their first step towards becoming politically involved young adults.

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Zahra Gordon. Zahra Gordon is 16-year old JUNIOR at Blair who is overwhelmingly proud of being from the Caribbean twin-island nation of Trinidad & Tobago (and she never fails to mention that). She has been living in Maryland for four years. If you're ever trying to find … More »

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