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Recalling the ghosts of presidential elections past

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By Meaghan Downs

If you can’t remember your first election, I certainly can.  
In 2008 I sat on my futon in my college dorm room and sealed the envelope on my Illinois absentee ballot with a mixture of dread and hope.
A few years later, I drove myself to a local Nebraska precinct to vote in the state and municipal races.
I was nervous, and probably babbled to the woman signing me in.
Stepping up to the booth, I felt like I always do now when I vote, that the weight of American democracy depended on my shoulders.
Like the founding fathers that penned the opening preamble to the Declaration of Independence were making sure I performed my civic duty.
Like my one lonely ballot satisfied the insatiable political machine I loved to hate with equal parts delighted fascination and amused horror.  
I mark time by elections, when I’m not counting the days according to how much strong coffee needs to be poured down my gullet.  
Gore vs. Bush.
Bush vs. Kerry.
Obama vs. McCain.
Romney vs. Obama.
My highly anticipated version of the Olympic cycle except with tiny American flag pins, dark navy suits and perfectly coiffed gray hair instead of swimming and gymnastics.
In high school, I jumped at the chance to work as an election judge in Illinois. At 17 I couldn’t vote yet, so I nagged the program’s adviser, the liaison between the high school and the city, until I knew I was chosen to hand out “I voted!” stickers and explain how to darken bubbles on the ballot properly.  
In an effort to impress future employers with my community service, I proudly listed “election judge” underneath my work experience on my resume for years.
It’s depressing to admit how sad I was when I deleted that part of my working life from my resume entirely.
Voting, for me, is more American than apple pie, than baseball, than a patriotic mash up of the national anthem and “God Bless America.“
I’m not sure if many 18-year-olds voting for the first time next week will feel the same way.  
First time voters can’t complain they haven’t heard anything about the election.
2012 is the year of social media politics, with 1 in 10 people watching the presidential debate on television while also plugged into a mobile device or computer, according to the Pew Research Center.
More than a third of people said social media was important for them to use when keeping up with political news. More than 41 million people “liked” their respective picks for president on Facebook during this election season.
It’ll be interesting to see if the inundation of politics through social media translates into the same strong young vote presence found in 2008.
As a former member of the much talked about “youth vote” in 2008, I can tell you that I will approach my precinct and the ballot booth with the same sense of responsibility that I did four years ago.
That despite my own growing cynicism, my vote still counts; that I still play a role, as minor as it is, in how my country and its government are shaped.  
If that’s not some kind of patriotism, then I don’t know what is.

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