Eric Santiestevan, Composer

I missed my first opportunity to vote; I was caught up with this and that in college in 1992 and it just slipped on by. I felt bad, but I was 3000 miles from home and just didn't research how to get an absentee vote ballot in time.

In 1996, I very happily voted to re-elect Clinton, via absentee ballot. By 2008, I had been back in Los Angeles for a while and was extremely eager to help dig America out of the hole that George W. Bush's administration had gotten us into. When the inauguration rolled around, I was the happiest I had been about being part of the voting process since 1996. I recognize that one should be happy to be a part of the process regardless of outcome, but there's something to be said when voting for, to paraphrase a slogan, change one can believe in.

In 2000, when Bush was first elected, my roommate and I pledged to join many NGOs, to be politically savvy, and attend MoveOn. We did so, but it was a long time in the wilderness. I do recognize that all of that time watching (and participating) in arguments on DailyKos, marching at rallies, scoring politically tinged documentaries became my small role in effecting change within American politics. This made the wilderness, which bore little fruit until 2008, easier to bear.

People have to talk, march, and vote. Merely voting is great, but when you're committed to something--anything--voting with that thing in mind makes the experience that much greater; it's not just the national stage, but your own hometown, social issues on the state and county level. Even Facebook discussions go a long way in effecting change.

Rebecca Natalia Billerio, Music Supervisor

I'll never forget as a kid when I got to fill out a fake ballot as my parents cast their real votes. I remember feeling excited for when I would finally be able put in my opinion.

My senior year of high school I took AP government, and this happened to also be an election year in which I was finally able to vote! Everyone at school was talking about candidates that day, but I already knew whom I planned on voting for.

When got home from school my mom and I went across the street to the local middle school to vote. Despite the horror stories I'd heard about voting lines, we walked right in. I remember feeling very grown up and proud after we walked out with our "I voted" stickers.

Aaron Needham, Graphic Design/Marketing

I feel I got into politics far too young. That's what happens when you are a punk rock kid.

Starting around the age of thirteen, I was that "weird" guy in class that would never speak until I was called on. But, then I would shit all over the teacher’s point; because, I was sure I was smarter than they were. That's what listening to punk music will do for you. Crass, the Dead Kennedys, the Clash and a pile of other punk records were my intro to politics, and the message was clear: These people are not on your side. These people do not care about what is best for their citizens. These people are no longer decent. They are government.

My first band was called Chains Of Freedom. We sang songs like "Kill for my Education" about how our government will pay for your higher learning as long as you are willing to join up and put in some time in murdering other poor uneducated people from other countries first. We were fifteen. We hadn't really grasped the art of subtly yet. In our defense, these were the Bush years, and every extreme anti-government rant we expressed at the time has now become popular opinion.

My involvement in politics was a clear reaction against it. I spent many nights wheat pasting anti-government artwork all over Los Angeles. I did things like paint a 12-foot portrait of Bush in the style of a communist dictator. I didn't vote. I wasn't okay with others voting. The government was the problem, and any active involvement was willfully siding with the enemy.

When I did eventually vote it was only for one real reason: I wanted a black guy. That's it. I still don't trust or agree with a huge amount of things our government does. It was simply the chance to break the pattern of one old white guy after another that was enough to make me turn my back on all of my other beliefs. And when it came time to vote again... We had already broken the pattern. I am back to not voting for now.

Who knows when I will be back, if ever. I'll vote for a lady maybe. Let's try one of them out.

Talora Michal, Writer/Director

Sophomore year of college I was a first-time voter and dry-mouth ecstatic to cast a ballot for a candidate I supported and admired. A flush of freshness pinked my cheeks as I went to the polls early: all I could think was how excited I was to vote for the president.

The polling location was the sports arena of my university. The sight of fellow adults exiting the double-doors with "I Voted" stickers affixed to their shirts over their hearts made me quicken my pace to cast my ballot and join the club: The Adult World. The notion that for the rest of the day I would unquestionably be an adult was thrilling. I fantasized how other adults would share a knowing look for the rest of the day. Perhaps even high-fives. Yeah! Democracy! I hadn’t been a pep-rally person in high school, but I was charged like a cheerleader to go-vote-win. We would be Voters; wouldn't that be something!

But, once inside the arena I faltered. Everything about the set-up was rigid and serious. Quietly, I allowed a poll-worker to check me in and another to escort me through the process of voting. Then, I was left to close the curtain and cast my vote.

Facing the ballot, the flush of excitement turned to the red of embarrassment; I’d expected a ballot one might see on a Loony Tunes short - two names next to exaggerated boxes. All I’d heard about in the news were two men running for president. But I now saw: there were several names on the ballot for positions beyond the presidential candidates, along with local measures asking for my input. I stood there, unsure of what to do.

In the end, I voted “party-line” for local officials and state representatives. I felt a little guilty about it, but at that time I believed it would be wrong to leave my ballot blank. And, I feared it would be rejected.

However, I spent a very long time reading through the ballot measures, trying my best to understand what I was voting for, carefully thinking through each option. I stood there so long, I started to fear they were going to tap the curtain and tell me my time was up.

But, they didn't. And when I left the booth, I was given my sticker. A bit of my oomph was diminished — I was abashed to not have known more about the party candidates for whom I’d voted, and questioned if I’d done the right thing, voting for people who I didn't know anything about — but I was glad to have stepped up and expressed a careful opinion on the ballot measures. I was also deeply proud to have voted for a presidential candidate I respected.

All day, I wore my “I voted” sticker. I even changed shirts at one point and transferred the sticker to the new blouse. There were no high-fives or knowing winks as I walked around campus. People treated each other as they always did. But, I felt glad to have participated and unequivocally made a mark in history for a day.

Later that night, I took off the sticker and fastened it to the TV in my bedroom my high school boyfriend gave me when I got my first apartment sophomore year, one with a turn-dial that only received PBS and USA network. The sticker was still there when I re-gifted the TV to my brother after I graduated.

Since this first election, I have yet to vote for a candidate I admired as much as my choice in 1998, but I have educated myself a little more each year about the issues and the candidates on my ballot and walk in to vote more educated than the year before. As a Floridian, I was personally affected and disturbed by the 2000 recount, but I continue to vote and believe our democracy can and will work when everyone participates in the process. At the end of every election, I wear my “I Voted” sticker proudly.

In 2012, I had to cast my first absentee vote. I spent a lot of time researching candidates and stood in line faxing and re-faxing my California ballot from Louisiana. The fax line was busy for almost an hour. While there is no guarantee, I have confidence that the "okay" fax confirmation means my vote counted. Although, the entire experience only felt "okay"...until a friend gave me his “I Voted” sticker as an honor badge to celebrate.