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Diné Teen Couldn’t Wait to be Counted

Navajo Times, News feature, Cindy Yurth Posted: Oct 11, 2008

CHINLE, AZ — It was the first possible day of his life he could vote, and Preston Jones didn’t waste any time.

Jones, 18, was at the poll in Gallup for early voting Tuesday.

“I’ve wanted to vote since we first learned about elections in fifth-grade social studies,” said Jones, who is from Thoreau, N.M. and a student at the University of New Mexico’s Gallup campus.

He realizes he’s an anomaly — according to the U.S. Census, just over half of eligible 18-year-olds registered to vote in the last presidential election, and only 42 percent actually voted.

Native Americans are also notorious for avoiding the polls, although the Census figures on voting, for some reason, didn’t track Natives (statistics are available for whites, non-white Hispanics, blacks, Asians and mixed-race Americans).

Jones, who is Táchiinii born for Táchiinii, said some of his friends don’t seem to think they’re old enough to vote, even though they’re legal.

“We always think, ‘That’s not for us, it’s more like an adult thing,’” he said. “I tell my friends, ‘Hey, you have to start some time. If you don’t start paying attention to politics now, what makes you think you’ll do it when you’re 40?”

Jones said he voted for Barack Obama after watching the presidential and vice-presidential candidates debate, and visiting some political analysts’ Web sites.

“If you get on the Net, you can fact-check them and see who’s telling the truth and who’s lying,” he said.

Mostly, though, he’s voting Democrat this year because he doesn’t like the Republicans’ eight-year track record under the Bush Administration.

“I just see John McCain repeating a lot of what George Bush has been saying,” he said. “I don’t see how we can expect change if we vote for more of the same.”

He also was more impressed with Joe Biden than Sarah Palin during their debate.

“Biden seemed much more up-to-date on foreign affairs,” he said. “Palin was talking about things that happened a year, year-and-a-half ago.”

Voter registration has closed in both Arizona and New Mexico for the Nov. 4 elections, but Jones encouraged young people who did register to make sure to exercise their franchise.

“Just go out there and do it,” he said. “It’s not hard. How can we expect changes in our world, even our schools, if we’re not going to be a part of the process?”

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