The fire department at the intersection of Milledge and Lumpkin streets was abuzz on Election Day morning. And much of the talk concerned the how voting traditions are passed down from one generation to the next.
Veteran voters at Precinct 7C, in the heart of Five Points, were eager to be helpful to new constituents and first timers.
“I think it is very important for people voting for the first time and turning 18 to be part of the process,” said Andy Rhicard, 32, a public school teacher who has voted in three presidential elections. Before they even start high school, youngsters need to learn where different candidates stand on specific issues.
Robert Brawner, 58, lives on Milledge Circle and has three children in their 20s. He has been talking politics with them for months. He advises new voters to “Read, study, and look into what the issues are and who the candidates are. Make up your own mind and vote for who you feel would represent your needs and interests the best.”
Brawner also suggests young voters think about their economic futures. “They need to be paying attention to what they’re going to live with for the next four years,” he said.
Sarah Kesler, who is 64 and has voted in many elections, loves the fact that everyone gets to vote their personal opinions and says that voting gives people an important voice.
Not everyone headed to the polls by themselves early on Tuesday morning.
Katie Stabb, 6, came with her 44-year-old father, Eric Stabb. The Flory-Stabb family has been talking with Katie about the importance of voting. Coming to the polling place gave her a chance to experience voter involvement first hand.
Katie knows a little something about voting because she and her classmates vote on which books to read at her school, Barrow Elementary. Eric Stabb thinks that six-year-olds are a tad young to understand all the nuances of electoral politics, but said, “It's important that we all talk about it and that we do it all civilly.”
Other parents who say they taught their children to vote include Eileen and Earl Miller, who lived in Pennsylvania and Florida for many years before relocating to Athens recently. Now in their 70s, they’ve always tried to be the first ones at the polling place – no matter where it is.
Their approach to politics and to voting is decisive: “Just do it Try to fight through the rhetoric and fluff and go for what is really important to you,” Earl Miller said. “Find that if you can.”
Young people, Eileen Miller said, should take voting very seriously indeed. “Your whole future will be different depending on who is in control of things.”