The new voter: From an early age, a GOP activist is born
Tanya Renicker of Ohio University bucks the ‘youth vote’ trend to back McCain-Palin, even going door to door on the ticket’s behalf.
From the time Tanya Renicker was in sixth grade, she knew she’d vote as soon as she could. Soon after she turned 18 last year, she drove the 16 miles from her family’s farm in Sherrodsville, Ohio, to the Tuscarawas County Courthouse and registered to vote.Skip to next paragraph
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On March 4, the day of the Republican primary in Ohio, she pulled the lever for the first time.
“My mom took a picture of me going in to vote,” she says. “It was such an emotional experience. I was so excited to have a say in our government. I just wish everybody was as excited about it as I am.”
Not so long ago, this young woman would have had little company. Many young people were tuned out from politics. Fewer than half of those ages 18 to 24 who were eligible to cast ballots in 2000 actually did so. But this could be called the Year of the Young. Fully 86 percent of young people say they will probably vote on Nov. 4, polls show.
Tanya, however, is not like a majority of her peers: She’s a committed Republican. Young people are voting for Democrat Barack Obama by more than 60 percent, according to a recent poll by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. A separate poll by nonpartisan Zogby International – this one of cellphone users, who tend to be young – found a similar result.
“A lot of people are voting early and doing voting absentee, but I’m going to the polls on Nov. 4 to cast my ballot. I want to get my ‘I voted today’ sticker,” says Tanya, a junior at Ohio University in Athens. “I’ve been waiting for this a long time.”
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Tanya has been smitten with politics ever since her first real lesson in American history, in sixth grade. She can’t explain why, but the story of how the United States was founded, how the Constitution was written, fascinated her. That evolved into a passion for politics, since “it all comes together there.”
“Back then,” she recalls, “all my friends’ families were liberals except one, my friend Kinsey, and me. We used to say, ‘We love George Bush’ when we really didn’t know that much about politics yet. My interest has just grown since then.”
Tanya and her younger sister were raised on a family farm, the same one where their mother grew up, in the rolling hills of eastern Ohio. The family grows Christmas trees on some of their 300 acres. Her father is a sheet metal worker, a union man. Her mother stayed home and raised the girls. Conversation at the dinner table occasionally touched on politics. Tanya would go to the polls with her mother when she voted, but most of her life revolved around dance, theater, cheerleading, and the everyday activities of school and church. “I definitely don’t fit the Republican stereotype – I was really artsy in high school,” she says.
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The events of 9/11 in 2001 galvanized Tanya, transforming an interest in politics into a genuine, daily concern.
“I was in my fourth-period reading literature class when I found out,” she says. “At that moment I didn’t really realize what had happened. We had a football game that night and they canceled it, and I thought, ‘I don’t understand why they did that.’ ”
At home later that day, the full implication of the attack hit her. “That made me that much more interested in politics and national defense and all of the other countries in the world that aren’t like America,” she says.