Courtney Turner first began thinking about voting in a presidential election as a 16-year-old sophomore at Austin High School.
She flipped the calendar ahead a couple of years in her mind and thought, “Hey, I might be actually old enough to vote not long after my birthday in 2012.”
That day has come for Turner, a senior cheerleader for the Black Bears. But she had to scramble for the right.
She celebrated her 18th birthday Friday. The deadline to register for those who would turn 18 before election day was Oct. 26.
“I pre-registered the prior week,” she said. “I’m just excited to get to vote. Now, I feel like a real citizen. I feel I have a voice in choosing our government.”
Turner and three senior Austin classmates — Josh Walker, Adrian McKinnon and Aleah Garth — chatted Monday about their first walk to a voting booth, which each will take today after school.
Walker, a running back for the football team, was also 16 when voting first came to his mind, a thought instilled by his mother.
“She drove me to the (Morgan County) courthouse for my driver’s test,” he said. “After we parked, we were walking up there and she said, ‘Today, you’ll be able to drive. When you get old enough, you need to register to vote.’ And here I am. That was a quick two years.”
McKinnon, a cornerback for the Black Bears, said he became interested in politics shortly after his 14th birthday on Sept. 3, 2008, while watching the first presidential debate between then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Arizona Sen. John McCain.
“And at that time, even though I was really young, I remember people talking about George Bush and John Kerry (in 2004),” McKinnon said. “It was how I was raised. My mom motivated me to want to vote.”
McKinnon said the first time to vote “will definitely be the highlight of my life. I feel I’m old enough now to actually make a difference.”
Garth, an Austin softball player, celebrated her 18th birthday Oct. 16. She said she, too, is happy that she can finally make a difference “and have a voice in what’s going on in our country. I’ve always wanted to vote just because my parents were. Now that I can, I see the importance of it.”
Turner said she only watched part of one of the debates between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But her economics class did a project on the candidates’ economic policies.
“We had to find five articles on each one’s stance, summarize them in a report and do an analysis on how they would affect the economy,” Turner said. “I know who I am going to vote for, but I’ll keep it to myself.”
Turner is especially interested in economics because she will pursue a major in business management at the University of Alabama, where she earned an academic scholarship. She will specialize in global business.
“I like to travel,” she said. “I haven’t been around the world yet but I’ll get there.”
Walker, who turned 18 on Sept. 23, said he missed the vice presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and Sen. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin but watched all three presidential debates.
“I also recorded them on a DVR and watched them again,” Walker said, “to become more informed and to get a better understanding of who I wanted to vote for.”
Walker said he is giving so much consideration to both candidates because “to me, as an American citizen, it is a great honor and responsibility to be able to vote because people die for that right.”
Walker said he doesn’t think he’ll make up his mind until he walks into the voting booth.
McKinnon said his mother told him what he should look for in presidential candidates.
“She advised me to look for the one who I believe would make the country better,” he said. “I feel really confident in who I am going to vote for. I made up my mind after watching the second presidential debate. But I think the country has two good candidates to consider.”
McKinnon said he and his mother watched all three debates.
Garth said she had never watched a presidential debate until the second debate between Obama and Romney.
“When they talked about the economy and the money the government needed, I thought, ‘Yeah, we’re in debt,’ ” Garth said.
She said she has reached a decision on who she will vote for.
“I shouldn’t be nervous about going to vote, but I will be nervous, not because it’s my first time to vote,” she said. “I’ll be wondering if I’ve made the right choice on which one is going to help the United States more.”
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