Maryland Teen Makes Her Vote Count
LIANE HANSEN, host:
The state of Maryland is preparing, along with Virginia and the District of Columbia, for the so-called Potomac Primaries on Tuesday. In Maryland we came across an interesting story about young voters. Sarah Boltuck, a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, didn't think it was fair that her state barred 17-year-olds from voting in the primaries if their birthday came before November's presidential election.
So she helped launch a campaign to win voting rights for teens her age. Maryland's political parties took notice and pressured state officials to allow 17-year-olds to vote. That means on Tuesday, Boltuck will be able to vote in Maryland's primary.
She came into our studio yesterday to explain why she did it.
Ms. SARAH BOLTUCK (Fought for Voting Rights): First of all, somebody had to do it, especially because voting is such a fundamental right and they can't just take, you know, nearly 50,000 voters' rights away without anybody noticing or taking action.
HANSEN: And so you decided if not you then who?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Yeah. So be the change that you want to happen.
HANSEN: Yeah. Seventeen-year-olds did have the right to vote and then it was revoked. How did you find out?
Ms. BOLTUCK: I got a rejection letter.
HANSEN: When you tried to register?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Yes. So even on their Web site at a point when I tried to register in May, it had told me that if it was 18 before the next special or general election, I could vote in primaries and register. A month later I got a rejection letter that said otherwise.
HANSEN: And so you said what happened?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Yeah. It was pretty shocking and confusing.
HANSEN: Yeah. You'll be 18 in July?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Yes, I will.
HANSEN: So you'll be able to vote for president in the November election.
Ms. BOLTUCK: Yes.
HANSEN: But why is voting in Maryland's primary so important to you?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Well, because it's part of the election. Otherwise I'd only be participating in half of one. And we narrowed down the choices and by the general election it might be too late. The candidate I want to support may already be out of the election at that point. I think it's important for me to get my voice heard now.
HANSEN: Why? Why do you think this is such a big year for young voters getting involved?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Well, I think it's special because of the candidates and it's such a race at this point. You don't know who will be the Democratic nominee. So people really want to get their opinions heard 'cause they think that they have maybe more of a say than in the past.
HANSEN: What are some of the issues that are important?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Well, right now, of course, the issue in Iraq, the situation there. Also with the economy and also immigration. It's a lot.
HANSEN: These are issues that directly affect you or...
Ms. BOLTUCK: Well, of course, 'cause I live in America. So of course these issues will affect me.
HANSEN: Uh-huh. What kind of reaction have you had among the students now that you've been able to change it back, that 17-year-olds now can vote?
Ms. BOLTUCK: Well, I think people are really excited to go vote. I know especially my school is very politically active and people just talk about the politics. And they're all planning on going on Tuesday to vote in the primary.
HANSEN: Sarah Boltuck is a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Thanks for coming in.
Ms. BOLTUCK: Thank you.
HANSEN: And now a call out to all podcasters under the age of 30 who are passionate about Election 2008. WEEKEND EDITION Sunday wants you.
We want to put together a diverse team of people from all political persuasions who are interested in contributing podcasts to the show. So if you have a lot to say about Election 2008, and how it's playing out where you live, go to our Web site at NPR.org and click on the Contact Us link. Tell us about yourself, your interest in the election and why you'd be a great choice. Please put the word podcaster in the subject line of your email. And be sure to include links to your previous podcast work. We look forward to hearing from you.
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