On Tuesday, November 4, 1980, I sat in a dorm room in Creswell Hall on the University of Georgia campus with my Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters. Our eyes were glued to a sixteen-inch television screen watching the presidential election returns for President Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan. For most of us the election represented our first voting opportunity. We believed, and I believe to this day, that each vote cast is important.

Growing up I was surrounded by a family that treasured the right to vote. I remember my maternal grandmother Marzella Futch marching out of her house on West 45th Street in Cann Park on her way to vote when I was a young teenager. She could no longer drive, but that didn’t stop her from walking to her voting precinct at Butler Presbyterian Church on Victory Drive. As she walked out the door she told me she would be back soon. I remember it was a chilly day, and I remember her determination. In that moment I recognized the importance of voting.

I felt excited when I registered to vote as a 12th grade student at Beach High School. To me, it was a rite of passage. Finally I could exercise my precious right and obligation to vote! Throughout my college years I voted as a Chatham County resident by absentee ballot. My mom made sure I received an absentee ballot for each election, and confirmed I returned my ballot by the deadline.

This year I voted early. There was a short line, but it moved quickly. As I left the precinct I proudly placed my “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker on my dress, and took a selfie. Even today I feel a rush of adrenaline when I vote.

Do you remember your first voting experience?