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Faculty Look Back on First Voting Experiences

Brandi Norton

When Election Day comes around, it isn’t all about the President, but also about the people voting and their experience. ”My first election as a voter was in 1988, and I voted in the Democratic primary candidates running” said Dr. Katy Gray Brown, from the department of peace studies.

Gray Brown mentioned that the two candidates running that year were Michael Dukakis, and Jesse Jackson. Something interesting about Jackson is that he actually won over Joe Biden in the year of 1988.

“I was really excited to vote for Jesse Jackson because I had been following his work since he ran for President in 1984,” Gray Brown said. “In 1984 I was 16 years old and I couldn’t vote, but I did go with a group of Manchester College students to hear Jesse Jackson speak in Chicago.”

Gray Brown said she was really excited, when she was old enough, to vote for a Black candidate in 1988, and since Jackson was a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., that made things better.

Not only did Gray Brown have a say about her experience, but so did Dr. Michael Staudenmaier, from the department of history.

Staudenmaier was just 18 when he first voted, and believed voting was not the way to make change. He wanted to be out in the streets and protest.

“I was about to start college and it was confusing because if you go to college that does not mean you live in that state,” Staudenmaier said. “I was from Wisconsin and I was going to college in Minnesota and I had to vote before I went to college. That part was really weird.”

Staudenmaier was persuaded by his parents to start voting. “I had parents who weren’t activists, who weren’t radical, but they were socially engaged,” he said. He mentioned that his parents wanted to be a part of the world and that they were the type of people to have the candidate signs in front of their house.

Staudenmaier also does not see himself as a Republican or a Democrat. “I’m to the left of most Democrats, so there is no chance I’m going to see myself as a Republican, but I never said the Democratic Party speaks for me,” he said.

With a gentle laugh, Staudenmaier characterized himself as a “weird Independent.”

Staudenmaier said his best memory about the Election was with his brother-in-law. “He is the head of the Democratic National Committee,” he said. “He’s in charge of trying to get the Democrats to win.”

Staudenmaier says that one year the Democrats lost a very important election, which caused Tom, his brother-in-law, to lose his job because at the moment he worked with the President. “He was really down, and I saw him and I said some really insensitive stuff,” Staudenmaier.

This was his favorite memory because he learned a lesson. Just because the election did not matter to him did not mean it was like that for other people. He learned that he has to respect everyone’s decision no matter if he was related to them or not.