Election Day 2012: 'I Voted' sticker symbolizes adulthood for one teen writer

"I have two moms. I don't want them to lose the chance to get married someday. These laws we are voting on just seem unconstitutional to me." -- Lilly Benowitz, 18, first-time voter
"My vote stands with Obama. He's on the right path. It just takes time, and I believe in the message he's expressing." -- Jane Epple, 51
Photo By: Victoria Turcios

What a rush! It’s Election Day!

Upon recently turning 18, one of the biggest benefits to being an official “adult” is that I am now able to exercise my American right to vote.

I sprang out of bed early this morning — surprisingly — instead of trying to squeeze out an extra half-hour of sleep. Before heading to the election booth, I made sure to dress festively for the occasion, so I quickly put on a red sweater and my blue jeans, then wrapped an American flag print scarf around my neck.

Upon driving to my City Hall in Delano, the parking lot was packed and extremely busy. It was only 7 a.m.!

Walking amongst the crowd, I noticed I was the only “young voter” of the group, with most voters likely on their way to work. The lines were long, but seemed to move quickly as I made my way to the registration desk. I made sure to pre-reigster over the summer so I could receive my ballot right away. This day was too important to me.

I had envisioned what this moment would be like, but going into the actual booth made me feel even more secure about the voting process and how confidential it was. I made my marks by filling in the bubbles and then re-checked them, just to be sure I was doing everything correctly.

Voting for the first time in an election was incredibly important to me, so I also made certain that I was properly informed about the issues and conducted plenty of research. When a person receives a ballot, there are choices for President, of course, but also Senate and State Representative positions. There are also spots to vote for local judges — positions that are not always well known since those running cannot state party affiliations. I also found it extremely interesting that in many local categories, candidates were running unopposed.

After finishing my ballot, I strolled to the machine to finish the process. Believe it or not, it was out of order! I placed my ballot in anyway, to later be counted by hand. I was a little dismayed since I was looking forward to seeing what my vote number was for the morning.

Finally, no first time voting experience would be complete without placing a red “I Voted” sticker on my lapel. This simple sticker symbolized my coming of age into adulthood. I couldn’t have been prouder.

I’m fully aware of my newfound responsibilities because of this important right to vote. It’s a privilege that has to be earned by so many others while attempting to obtain democracy. In future elections, I have the responsibility to keep myself informed so I know the issues every time I make an important decision like I did today.

FOR MORE: At right, ThreeSixty photographer Victoria Turcios spent the morning snapping photos of election activities at Martin Luther King Park on Nicollet Avenue. For a full gallery of her Election Day 2012 photos, visit our Facebook page.