In a video making the rounds on the Internet, a woman giddily compares her first time voting for Barack Obama to the choice of a first sex partner.
It was a tad vulgar and drew immediate, unflattering and often hilarious comparisons of the two acts.
But it also made me remember my first experience voting, and I wondered about how others remembered it. I raised the question on Facebook, and the recollections were similar to my own – clear, but not very sexy.
Retiree Christy Quinn says she remembers being proud to stand in line for her first time voting in 1968, and noted that she hasn’t missed an election since.
Yvonne Meeks, the former chair of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce board, says she recalls that she was excited to be “a real American exercising my freedom.”
Likewise, Grovetown City Councilman Sonny McDowell says his first vote in 1972 was “one of the highlights of my life,” where he “changed from being a ‘kid’ to a citizen.”
Bill Lesshaft of Martinez, then a student at Xavier University, remembers voting absentee for Richard Nixon in 1968. Danny Prichard, stationed in Japan with the U.S. Marine Corps, also voted absentee and wondered if his ballot made it home in time.
Mike Sizemore, then a student at Georgia Southern, also remembers voting by absentee. Like him, I voted absentee in my first general election while at Valdosta State. I also recall the paper ballot came in the mail with a straightened paper clip for punching out the number corresponding with your selection.
That wasn’t my first vote, however; that came in the 1980 primary. I was still at home, and my voting precinct was in the Appling Courthouse.
That was a big event for me, back when we still used an actual voting booth.
The booths had a curtain and a big lever. You’d step into the booth and pull the handle, closing the curtain behind you. All the races were laid out on a big panel, and each race had a lever beside it. You’d flip the levers for the candidates of your choice, and then you pulled the big handle again to simultaneously open the curtain and register your votes.
I don’t recall who I voted for in that first primary, but I remember the excitement of being able to vote for Ronald Reagan with that first absentee vote.
In that election, Columbia County’s turnout was an amazing 74 percent, with 12,589 votes cast. Reagan won the county en route to winning the presidency, while the rest of the state voted for native son Jimmy Carter. Matt Mattingly also won, but Democrats won every local seat.
That changed in 1984, when Reagan’s re-election coattails helped bring the first Columbia County Republicans into office: Sheriff Otis Hensley – who had lost four years earlier in the Democratic primary to Tom Whitfield – and Suzanne Scott, the first woman and first Republican school board member.
The rest is history.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/