Valerie McPherson, Bolivia
My favorite voting moments had more to do with motherhood, than the actual candidates--I always took my daughter to the polls with me. We'd step behind the curtain (sometimes with her in my arms) and pull the curtain shut with the big lever. Then we would flick down the important little voting levers and walk home. At 32, she still has strong memories of election days--and she is a strong feminist!
Mary G. Wilson, United States
My most memorable trip to vote occurred when I was not only too young to vote, but even too young to go to school.
The setting was the early 1950s in Andis (Lawrence County), Ohio, a part of poverty-stricken Appalachia. I was a child of four or five as I accompanied my mother, aunt and grandmother to vote. I may not have understood why but I could tell that this was a very important trip for these three women. All of them had been born before women got the right to vote.
The secrecy of the ballot prevented me from going into the voting booths. But, that did not bother me because my dad had an impressive job as a poll worker. He sat behind a long table that extended the entire length of the tiny township hall. The only way to get behind the table to sit on his lap while the women voted was to crawl underneath the table! Fifty years later I still remember the fun of going to vote.
That day started something for me: Today, I serve as President of the League of Women Voters of the United States, an organization dedicated to voter education.
Benedicta Lumor, Ghana
It is a wonderful sight to see mothers carrying their babies on their backs and standing in queues to cast their votes. Though, by population census, women outnumber men, only few dare to take part in this civic exercise. For me, the fact that a single vote can effect a change is sufficient encouragement for me to vote.
On the eve of voting we go deep in the night to the start forming queues at polling stations. We secure our positions in the queue by leaving a marked stone at the spot and then go back home to sleep. First thing in the morning, without taking a bath we rush back to polling station to the spot we left our stones.
It must sound unthinkable but that is how determined the African youth have become to effect change through the ballot. No one dares challenge us when we get back to take our positions because we sacrificed part of sleep to book a place in the queue. We come back after voting to witness the counting of ballots and see how much change we were able to cause through the power of the thumb.
I look forward to a time in the near future when we can vote with ease and the process can be fast as being done in developed countries.
Narayan Solanke, India
My first voting experience is exceptional. You would be surprised to hear that I first voted at the age of only 12 years. Yes, it is true! And for your kind information, my voting was not even illegal!
Actually, the story behind my first vote is that my grandmother was unable to vote due to her age -- she was 82 years old -- and she was having problems with her vision and walking. So I took her to the election booth, showed her presence to the officials, and I voted for her. So that was my first voting experience! Today I am the President of the Universal Versatile Society of India and Regional Coordinator for iEARN (International Education and Resource Network).
Michaela Brown, United States
I moved from Washington, DC in 2003 without formally changing my address and neglecting my voter's registration. So on the eve of the next Presidential election, I set off for an eight hour drive from the Carolinas to exercise my right to vote.
My father who had Alzheimer's voted up to his last year. I walked him to the booth hobbling because he refused to have the materials brought to the curb (they do curbside voting in my county for the elderly and disabled.) When little else mattered to him and he could hardly remember the date he remembered that the right to vote was important. He remembered the sacrifices made to guarantee that right. My father associated voting with manhood. All men voted if they could. Whatever the challenges.
Constanza Svidler, Argentina and the United States
Although not my first time voting, my voting memory coincides with my first experience of democracy. It remains inherently tied to a sweeping sense of collective euphoria and optimism.
Political instability and state-sponsored violence in my homeland of Argentina surrounded my childhood and informs my person. After the 1976 military coup d'état, transitioning into dictatorial rule was swift and brutal, drowning the citizenry in uncertainty and fear almost immediately.
Argentina's return to democracy seven years later was palpably different. The ensuing presidential election remains one of my most powerful memories, always evoking that selfsame sense of celebration and timeliness tinged with relief that we experienced then.
My recollection conjures images of my father and myself walking Buenos Aires' streets collecting electoral pamphlets at polling sites and engaging in public political conversations--all actions that would have been deemed dangerous just months prior. My nuanced understanding of the situation's significance came with time, but the overall feeling of elation that marked that moment was as clear then as it is now.
Nosipho Matayi, South Africa
I remember when we had to cast our vote for the very first time. There were tears, laughter and excitement all at once. It was such a calm day for April, everyone could see that the heavens were finally at peace.
God was granting us our long awaited wish. We had so many people passing on after that week--people who finally were at peace. You see, casting your vote isn't only politically correct, but it's a statement of your worthiness to society. It is a basic human right.
Should you decide not to vote and a particular party that counted on your vote fails to make the desired margin then you have significantly ground the wheels of change to a screeching halt.
To be able to vote is like choosing to bring up your own child, versus giving the child to a grandmother and then not understanding why years later the bond between you and your son is not strong.
All citizens should be educated as to the importance of voting prior to the voting period. Voter education should be given the same level of importance as poverty, literacy, housing and unemployment.
Even if things don't work out as you had wished for, you still take ownership of the problems with the hope that next time you will look at the means of remedy.