marlienebastien_fc.jpgEarly voting was hell. It was as if efforts were made to discourage people from voting early.

Why else would citizens be forced to wait five to six hours in line to vote?  Let’s say that election officials were taken by surprise by the sheer significance of the early-vote electorate. Measures should have been taken immediately to meet the needs of the crowds. Aren’t we the most powerful nation on earth?
We must be the change we want to see in the rest of the world!  Voting is the most sacred act a citizen will pose in her entire life. It is demoralizing to field calls on the radio from so many Haitian-Americans who went back home because they could not stand in line for four to six hours to vote.

Of all the age groups, young Americans are the least likely to get to the polls. In the past, they were the least enthusiastic, least visible of the electorate.

There are, however, signs that things will be different with this election. Young Americans have expressed a great deal of interest in this presidential election. Many credit the advent of Sen. Barack Obama for this volte face (Haitian Creole for change).

A good percentage of Obama’s campaign volunteers are young college students from all colors and ethnic backgrounds.  Many people – mostly supporters of Arizona Sen. John McCain – believe that young people’s enthusiasm stems from pure ideological militancy, not for a real desire to impact the elections.

They are doubtful this youthful movement will actually translate into votes for Obama.  While I was on a recent flight to Asia to attend a forum on world migration and development, another traveler said: “These young people think it is cool to sit in front of their computers to send e-mails and ask people to vote for Obama.  However, they won’t go to the poll themselves. They lack the conviction and the patience to wait in line for hours.”

Indeed, the polls are not designed to attract young voters.  If anything, they are designed to keep them away. When it comes to clothing, games and fast foods, great consideration and planning is made to attract younger folks, but not so with voting.

My first-born cast his first vote for a presidential candidate on Tuesday.  He is quite responsible and civic minded. Yet, he had to be reminded more than once to register to vote.  We were sure to give him another reminder the night before.  We will do this until he gets into the habit of voting…until he understands the importance of the act.

Do you remember how many times you had to tell your child something before it sank into your child’s head? Why do you think it should be different with voting?  Local, state and federal governments have thrown in the gloves on the youth when it comes to voting. But parents should make it a priority to engage children at a very young age in the voting process.

Even if they are not old enough to partake in the political process, no matter: Enlist their participation anyway.  Get them to accompany you when you knock on doors, and enlist them to pass out information.  Teach them phone etiquette, and secure their help in calling and reminding people to go to the polls.

Organize mock debates.  Ask them to switch sides.  It will help them forge arguments pour or contre (Creole for “for or against’’).   It will also help build their character.  

They will probably resist at first, but eventually, they will join in. It is vital to tickle their interest at a very young age.

This election is historic for many reasons.  It is the very first time an African American had a real chance of becoming president of the United States.  It was also the first time a woman from the Republican Party had a chance to become vice president.

The advent of Barack Obama will change the course of history in the U.S. and the world over.