Voting: not to be taken for granted

One of my proudest moments involved watching my daughter go into a voting booth for the very first time at age 18.

She walked up to the electronic machine appearing nervous at first then determined. All she needed to do was recall the video she watched as a guide to using the device to offer herself a little comfort.

After she voted, she left the booth wearing a smile. We voted early and other than she and I, the election judges were the only people in the room.

They began clapping for her as she walked up to me. My daughter's smile got even bigger.

It was not only a proud moment for her but everyone else in the room.

Both my children also voted in their first-ever presidential election in 2016, which became one of the most historic events in our lifetime.

The national election coincided with several local, state and judicial elections, so I emphasized to them how important it was for them to do a little research prior to voting, including the candidates dates and times to vote and voting locations; to make sure they maintained their photo identification; and to treat voting as a valued right – not to be taken for granted.

Most of all, I tried to encourage them to never feel intimidated by the act.

I began voting while in college and have rarely missed an election. For me voting has become a habit.

Not just during the highly contentious elections but even during some of the seemingly mundane election years – a true test that voting has become second nature.

No matter where one stands on the issues, voting should never feel like a chore or a challenge.

On Saturday May 4, at least two local communities – Bertram and Meadowlakes – will cast their ballots in municipal elections.

Even though I do not live in those communities, I believe it is important to pay close attention to who the candidates are and what they believe are the important issues in their communities. Those who win will likely be interacting with officials in nearby communities to help tackle issues at a regional and state level as well as in their own communities.

Observing my own children and considering voter turnout, I believe perhaps the toughest group to convince to regularly participate are the youngest generation eligible to vote.

From school work and jobs to online socializing and road trips, the 18-to-20-something crowd has plenty to keep them busy and distracted from following the political storylines of the day.

What I've come to realize is some voters or potential voters have recoiled from voting due to the unfamiliarity with the process coupled with the level of vitriol spewing from political opponents.

On all levels scorched earth politics has become cringeworthy to watch at times.

Do not fret, young people, because nobody can obstruct your right to vote – but you.

For those young people who may be reading this column, I want to share a few tips to help take some of the mystery and confusion out of the process.

1. Know the difference between a “voting precinct” and your “county commissioner precinct.” For example, I live in Burnet County precinct 1 (There are four county commissioner precincts!), but my “voting precinct” is 9, which is among 20 voting precincts, designated by polling locations.

2. Check with your newspaper-of-record (The Highlander, of course) and the county elections office (512-715-5288) to determine where to vote, the registration deadline if you have moved and early voting dates and times as well as information about election day. The website address for elections information is Cities and schools typically contract with the county to conduct the elections, and polling places are usually centralized locations such as a community center, city hall or annex. Our Burnet and Llano county elections officials are top-notch, and always willing to help.

3. Make sure you have one of the following to present when you vote: an updated driver's license, military ID, license to carry (LTC), U.S. passport or U.S. citizenship certificate. All documents must be current and valid. If you don't have any of these, apply for a Texas election identification card (EIC) at any Texas driver's license office.

4. Don't be intimidated by what you don't know. I've been voting for years, and I still have to research when the midterm elections are, when the “presidential” voting years are, when there are proposed state constitutional amendments on the ballot and whether I have any of my local leaders in contested races during municipal and city elections. That sounds like a lot, yes! Just take it one election at a time.

Along with the basics of preparing to vote, we should inspire our young adults to take time out of a busy schedule to research our potential political leaders.

We should also continue to encourage them to punch past the angst and distractions of rousing election seasons.

From my perspective voting is an invaluable civic duty, where everyone is truly equal. One person, one vote – regardless of race, religion, gender or economic status.

Once young people can put voting into regular practice, I believe they can take pride in having a voice in who will be their political leaders.

At that time, we can confidently hand the reigns of our constitutional republic over to the next generation.

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