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Voting for the first time

Posted 11/07/12 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Turning 18 is a rite of passage for every American teenager, but even more so if it is an election year. Not only does the 18-year-old become an adult, but they get the opportunity to act as an adult and contribute to their country.
The 2008 presidential election brought a record number of people to the polls,12 percent of whom were first-time voters.
Though, according to Watford City Government teacher Mark Jokela, this year’s election doesn’t seem to have drummed up as much excitement as the last presidential election, a few Watford City High School seniors plan to cast their votes on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Two of them are Emily Ramage and Tyler Bates.
“I am excited to vote,” states Bates. “It is a new experience and a privilege.”
“It’s cool to be able to vote this year, especially since we are learning about how our government works,” states Ramage.
Jokela states he has been teaching the students how the election process works, both at a local and national level and the techniques used in campaigning and campaign finance.
“This is the most expensive election in history,” states Jokela. “The president has spent $2 billion, and the House and Senate races have each cost $1 billion. That is $4 billion total spent this year to campaign.”
Jokela has also discussed with the students the fact that because of the electoral college, North Dakotans really don’t have a say in presidential elections and what their response should be. More importantly though, Jokela is teaching his students to pay attention and not to vote solely on campaign ads.
“They won’t know what is going on if they don’t pay attention, because you can’t learn anything about a candidate from his campaign ads alone,” states Jokela.
And according to Bates and Ramage, they have been paying attention.
One issue that has inspired Ramage this election is Measure No. 4, which bans smoking in most public places.
“Smoking is a personal choice, but it also infringes on other people’s rights,” states Ramage.
However, Bates feels strongly about another issue. “I am interested in the issues concerning education and financial aid because a lot of people need financial aid.”
Whatever gets them out to vote, the important thing is that they take hold of their right and do it.
“I’m glad that when you turn 18 you get to have a say in what goes on in your country,” states Ramage.
First-time voter or not, Jokela and Ramage feel it is important to be educated both on the issues and who is running.