Back on this day, in 2002, I wrote in Triumphs & Tribulations III about the ongoing situation regarding the Alabama gubernatorial election. It was a hotly contested election and it had the state on edge, especially with what happened in Florida with the presidential election 2 years earlier. For me, this particular election holds a special significance. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: my first voting experience.
How I first came across this moment? Just like everybody else who experiences a first voting experience, mine started when I became eligible by age just 2 weeks before the election. I had been well prepared for the occasion, having followed the race since starting in the late Mr. Zeigler’s Honors Government class in August. He made sure to remind those of us who would be turning 18 prior to the election to register and to actually vote. When Election Day came, I wrapped up my day at Huffman High and stopped by what was then-Martha Gaskins Middle School to cast my vote. In addition to voting for Governor, I casted a vote for U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative for the 7th District amongst other Alabama State Representative and Senate races.
What it meant to me then? When I walked away from that polling station, I felt like a true American. It was actually a pretty exhilarating experience to fill out the ovals on the ballot. I remember meeting with Valorie Drew later that night and her asking me who I voted for with me giving the old “you never reveal your vote”.
What it means to me now? The way the 2002 election played out was very controversial. It was initially announced that Governor Siegelman had won re-election. Then came the stuff out of Baldwin County and the entire election was flipped. I don’t know if Governor Riley truly won or not but that first voting experience did expose me to the games within the games of politics. It definitely shaped the way that I vote.