George Will, others remember their voting debuts
With the Illinois primary right around the corner, we asked 10 voting veterans: What do you remember most about your first time casting a ballot?
Uni High Class of '58,
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
"The first year I was eligible to vote, 1962, I was at Oxford. So in 1964 I cast my first ballot — an Illinois ballot, cast absentee at Princeton, where I was in graduate school. I voted enthusiastically for Barry Goldwater, who finished third in the Princeton faculty poll, behind some left-wing third-party candidate from California. Some say Goldwater lost. I say he won — it just took 16 years to count the votes."
SISTER MARY KAY HIMENS
Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary
"I first voted when I reached 18, which was many, many years ago. I voted for (Harry) Truman. I appreciated his down-to-earth, solid Midwestern approach to decisions — and that he tried to get McCarthyism to disappear from the national scene. Good luck was not always his fate."
Savoy village trustee
"I never thought I'd publicly admit this, but my first vote was for Jimmy Carter. I came from Irish roots where John Kennedy's photo was on my grandparents' wall. There was only one political party in my family.
"When I went to vote, I pretended I wasn't nervous and then randomly selected all the other candidates. I was totally mystified by offices like county board and recorder. Regardless, I did feel good about doing my civic duty and haven't missed an election since — although my politics have certainly changed."
Champaign County election judge
"I had just turned 18 during the 1992 presidential year, and was closely following the race. I had also just moved down to Champaign to start college at the U of I, so I requested an absentee ballot from back home. My roommate and I filled out our ballots at the same time in our dorm room, discussing at the time that we wondered how many other freshmen on campus would even bother to vote.
"One other thing I recall about that election: Every single person in a contested race for whom I voted — from president down to township level — lost."
Sangamon Elementary, Mahomet
"The first time I voted was in 1995 when I became principal here. We had a school board member at the time — Mike Glapa — who was shocked that I had never voted before. I was 37 at the time. He immediately came to my house and registered me to vote in the next election.
"I voted at one of the indoor pavilions at Lake of the Woods, where they had a roaring fire burning. The place smelled great. I still remember how important I felt as a voter, and I have tried not to miss voting in an election since."
LORI GOLD PATTERSON
2011 Athena Award winner;
president of Pixo
"I remember the 1992 Bush/Clinton race very clearly because I was enamored with (Bill) Clinton and was convinced that all of my family and friends were going to vote for Ross Perot and, thus, enable (George) Bush to remain in the White House. I had never held a political position with my friends and family, so this was a big turning point for me.
"My first memory of actually being in the voting booth jumps all the way to 2004, when I brought my 8-year-old daughter with me. She wanted to read the whole ballot out loud and could not be convinced not to call out each of my selections."
Eight-time Boston Marathon
women's wheelchair winner
"I grew up in Milwaukee and turned 18 two weeks after Election Day in 1984. I had to wait two more years before the gubernatorial election in Wisconsin. My sister was 12 months older than me and loved politics. She earned straight A's in school without studying so I voted for the same candidate as her. Nothing remarkable stands out to me other than my sister's excitement about the election — our candidate won.
"I'd like to note that I'm more well-informed about the candidates these days."
Retiring state representative
for 103rd District
"It was long enough ago that you had to be 21 to vote. It wasn't a presidential year — just local elections; I don't even remember the names — but it was still exciting. It was all paper back then. I remember going into the polling booth — Borough Hall in High Bridge, N.J. — and thinking: 'Now, I was really an adult.'
"It wasn't long after that that I was working on campaigns. In 1968, we were living in New Hampshire — my husband was a graduate student at Dartmouth — and I was the office manager for the Gene McCarthy headquarters. In New Hampshire."
Newly named Vermilion County Public Health administrator
"My first voting experience was in the 1972 presidential election. I recall entering the booth in Fithian, pulling the curtain behind me and being very nervous. I was afraid I wouldn't do it right and would spoil the ballot. In 1972, we did not have machines; we darkened in the circle next to the person's name with a marker.
"I felt excited that I had done my part. My family never tried to persuade me to vote for a particular person or party but to decide for myself. My father served in World War II and felt very strongly about exercising the right to vote, a freedom he had personally fought to defend. The family motto was: If you didn't vote, you can't complain. I've voted every year since."
ADRIAN BURGOS JR.
Director of Graduate Studies,
UI Department of History
"I turned 18 my senior year of high school. The next fall, while I was in Army basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., my parents moved to New York. Three months later, I went to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. So I didn't have any real place of residency until I was out of the Army and starting community college in New York. I must have been 21 when I finally voted — Mario Cuomo for governor.
"I'm of the belief that Election Day should be a national holiday, so everyone can vote and not have to worry about long lines or losing money at work. To me, it's just as important a day as July 4th. Serving in the military for a couple years made it all the more important for me to exercise my right to vote."