The importance of the issues of this election vary from voter to voter, but voters young and old agree that this election will be different from anything they have seen before.
To 80-year-old Virginia Williamson, everything about this election is different from the first time she voted for president.
Although she does not remember who she voted for the first time, Williamson said she voted for a Democrat because that was the way her mother voted.
In the early days of her voting career, Williamson said everyone in her family voted for the same person.
Now, she and her children are casting votes for different candidates.
“But now, I’ve changed; I’ve got a mind of my own and I go by the issues. It’s what I think is best,” Williamson said.
This election is also going to be a different experience for younger voters. Allyson Thomas, 22, said she is voting on much different issues than she did four years ago.
Thomas said when she voted the first time, she was concerned with issues like abortion and gay marriage. But this election year is different.
“I’ve been hit hard. My parents have been hit really hard with this (economy). My dad lost his job and couldn’t find another one, and it’s something that everybody’s dealing with,” Thomas said.
For 79-year-old Evelyn Jackson, this year’s election is also a complete reversal from 1948. When Jackson came of voting age, blacks were not allowed to vote in Georgia. Now, a minority could be president.
“At one time we couldn’t even vote at all, and so I think we’ve come a long ways that we can run for president now,” Jackson said. “That’s exciting to me.”
As a black man originally from Cleveland, Ohio, 86-year-old Charles Ector was able to vote during the Great Depression when blacks in the South were still being denied the constitutional right.
Ector voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt because of his plan for relief programs like the Civil Conservation Corps.
“We had a depression — no jobs, no food. ... (Roosevelt) came out with a lot of different programs that I thought would benefit everybody that was in our condition,” Ector said.
This year, the economy is again the most important issue to Ector.
“Having lived through (a depression) ... I can understand that if we don’t do something to revive our economy we’re going to have another depression,” Ector said.
The economy is also at the forefront of the minds of younger voters like 22-year-old Thomas.
“I think where the problem was with the economy was in the first place was focusing too much on other countries and outsourcing businesses and we lost sight of what was going on here and what was really happening,” Thomas said.
But Thomas’ friend and classmate at Gainesville State College, 20-year-old Bethany Jockers, said national security is the most important issue in this election.
“The government is trying to ... use national security to invade our privacy,” she said.
Like Jockers, 80-year-old Williamson also said she is concerned about national security. But Williamson is less concerned with privacy, and she just wants to know that the country is going to be safe.
Some younger voters, many of whom see friends and family members leaving for Iraq, want a president who will end the war. Gainesville State student Conzuelo Rodriguez, 19, said she is tired of watching friends get sent to Iraq.
“That’s really bothering me,” she said. “I don’t even think we should be in this war, honestly, because I think it’s retarded and I just think we should just put an end to it and stop sending people there.”
Like many of her peers, Sylvia Cordell, 62, of Gainesville, votes based on values. In 1961, when she voted for president the first time, she chose John F. Kennedy because she liked his values.
“He seemed like a good, honest person to me, and had good morals,” Cordell said. “It seemed like he was for the children.”
Cordell said even today she wants a “God-loving person” in the Oval Office.
Sitting at the same table as Cordell in the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center, 79-year-old Jackson has something else on her mind.
Jackson wants a president with a plan to ensure affordable health care.
“I want to be taken care of,” the 79-year-old said.
The issue of health care is not limited to voters who are drawing Social Security benefits. It is also important to students such as 19-year-old Alvaro Quirino.
Quirino, a Gainesville State student, is looking for a candidate who will change the direction of the country that he said is “headed downhill” and make health care affordable to everyone.
“Half the people don’t have health care, and they really need it bad,” he said.