Columbia mayoral candidates remember first time voting, encourage voter registration

·2 min read

Did you know that North Dakota is the only state that does not require its residents to register to vote?

Now that you’re armed with that bit of trivia, it’s time to take a look at your own South Carolina voter registration status as the nation (minus North Dakota) marks National Voter Registration Day, Sept. 28.

Columbia residents have until Oct. 3 to register to be able to cast a ballot in the upcoming Nov. 2 elections and each of the four candidates running for mayor wants the city’s residents to register before it’s too late.

They gladly shared memories of their first times voting in hopes of encouraging residents to vote this year.

“The first time I voted, I was nervous and scared,” said former District 3 Councilman Moe Baddourah, who came to the United States from Lebanon, and first voted in a gubernatorial race. “I immigrated to Columbia at an early age, and voting in the Middle East was not people’s right like it is here. There was no trust in government.”

At-large City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said she first voted in the 1992 presidential primary. “I had just pledged my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., in the spring. Political awareness and involvement is one of our five-point thrust, so immediately upon becoming a member, I got involved in political forums and voter education programs. I voted absentee and my sorority sisters and I made an event out of voting absentee and promoting the youth vote.”

Sam Johnson, former chief of staff for Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin, said he never forgets to vote. “My birthday is on Nov. 1, so voting has always been a big deal for me. But that first vote was in the June 2006 Democratic primary. I know I was terrified that I’d make a mistake or wrong decision. But, more than fear, I remember how proud I was because my voice mattered. I’ve voted in every election since then because all of us deserve a voice.”

District 4 City Councilman Daniel Rickenmann, whose parents came to the United States from Switzerland, said his first vote was emotional for his family. “The first time I voted brought my mother to tears. As an immigrant , she understood the importance of our highest civic duty .This memory is what motivates me to public service.”

He added, “Please register and please vote.”

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