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Richardson, TX Junior High Essay Contest Winners: Why I Will Register and Vote When I Am 18

Dallas, TX –

First Place
Rebecca York, Apollo Junior High

This month in Afghanistan, a newly born democracy surrounded by theocracies, women are allowed to vote at the election box for the first time in history. They do this with the help of their country's police to ensure their safety. Less than a month from now, American women will exercise the same right, won in America about a century ago, without fear of terrorist attacks.

For more than two and half centuries American men and women have laid down their lives to secure my right as an American to participate in my country's democratic government. Voting is not only a right and a privilege, it is also a responsibility. This responsibility begins not when I am 18, but now. Although I can not yet enter the ballot box and cast a vote, I can still be involved in the election. It is my responsibility now to learn how to become an informed voter. Some of the things I can do now are select a candidate based on television, radio and newspaper reports, watch the debates, and learn how to form my own opinions based on issues of today. I can learn about these things from my social studies teacher, my parents, and other adults.

I will register and vote when I am 18. I look forward to the moment when I can vote to bring honor to those men and women who fought and died to leave me that gift of involvement. Although my right to vote seems secure, when I cast my first vote, somewhere in the world, someone will be fighting for that same right. The question then will not be "Why will I vote," but "How can I not?"

Second Place
Zoe Kahn, Parkhill Junior High

George Washington, the man who helped mold our country from a lump of clay into a beautiful piece of pottery, had the chance to become a king, but he did not. He, along with our founding fathers, knew that a land of freedom for its citizens could not be ruled by any one person, especially without say from its people. They wanted to put the people into power; they wanted us to vote!

Although Washington and other patriots did great things to give the people power, "the people" back then included only white men. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment gave all male citizens the right to vote, but the situation was not ideal. There were still many attempts to restrict African Americans' voting rights, particularly in the South. Laws were passed to restrict their voting rights, and they could not modify them since they could not vote.

Women would have to wait even longer to vote, until Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton got a chance to have their say. In 1848, they started their work to get women to the polls, planning conventions and protests. In 1920 their goals were realized; unfortunately, neither saw that day.

So many people have worked throughout history to obtain a right many do not take advantage of today. I am grateful for the dedication and sacrifice made by the American people. Having a say in government is something many people around the world still do not have. I will vote for the African Americans, I will vote for the women, and I will vote for any persecuted people who did not and do not have the chance, but most of all, I will vote for myself!

Third Place
Amanda Farrage, Apollo Junior High

One of the greatest rights guaranteed Americans in the Constitution is the right to vote. This is one of the founding principles of our country - that every voice should be heard. I am extremely proud to be an American, and I will register to vote when I am 18 because I feel voting is the best chance I have to express my opinion to the representatives elected to office.

This is the process set in place by the founders of our country for our voices to be heard. If we feel that our best interests are not being served by those in office, it is our responsibility to vote these individuals out and replace them with those we feel will best serve our country and us. Voting is a privilege and our right, but also our responsibility. If we choose not to vote, we have no say in our government, and we allow others to make laws and decisions with which we must then live.

Voting intelligently means being informed. This requires time and effort on our part. We need to be aware of the position held by each of the candidates seeking office, and be informed of their previous voting record. Only then can we make informed decisions when we go to the polls and cast our ballot. In this way, we will be electing officials who truly represent the majority.

A reminder from the League of Women Voters about voting today: if for some reason your name isn't on the list of registered voters, ask for a provisional ballot. But make sure you're at the correct polling place, or your provisional ballot won't be counted. To look up your precinct and poll location, click here.