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100-year-old voters excited about election

There is something about this upcoming presidential election that is different from those that I've witnessed before.

I think it goes beyond the excitement of either electing the first female vice president in Gov. Sarah Palin or the first black president in Sen. Barack Obama.

There is something else, something more urgent, more anxious about this one.

Truthfully, there have been times when I cast a ballot by the eenie-meenie-miney-moe method. Those were the times I envied the potential voters who had the gumption to just sit it out.

I can't do that.

The faces of forebears who couldn't vote always drove me to my precinct. So I went to vote, often dragging one or more of my children with me. If they couldn't see the faces I saw every time voting became a chore, they would at least see mine.

But I haven't had to persuade my children this year, or my friends. Everyone I know plans to vote.

And it is not because of the firsts involved in this election. I voted faithfully even when there were only the traditional white male candidates to choose from.

Why is this year different?

Wednesday morning, as I was dressing for work, ABC's Good Morning America featured the story of a 106-year-old nun who is a U.S. citizen living in Rome. She might be the oldest American voting overseas.

Sister Cecilia Gaudette decided she wanted to vote this year, after skipping all U.S. elections since she voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.

It wasn't an easy task. She had to get registered and then had to prove her age because the online overseas form went back only as far as 1905, according to the ABC report which apparently followed one shown on CBS Evening News Sunday. Gaudette was born in New Hampshire in 1902.

The retired music and art teacher, a member of the Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary, has lived in Rome for half a century but has not given up her citizenship. She has been following the campaigns in daily newspapers and really wanted to cast her ballot.

When asked by a reporter for the British Broadcasting Company why she is voting after all these years, Gaudette replied, "It's important because one vote may decide."

She's voting for Obama.

In the Ramat Tamir retirement community in Jerusalem, 105-year-old Miriam Pollak plans to vote as well. A Democrat, Pollak, who votes in Delray Beach, Fla., said she is voting for Sen. John McCain this time around because Obama is too risky.

While older voters tend to vote more consistently than younger ones, having them register after not voting for years or even for the first time is significant.

In Fayette County, there were several older residents who registered this year, although the County Clerk's office couldn't give a definitive number.

One is Thelma Stoddard, a registered Republican who always votes and who recently received a letter from President George W. Bush and Gov. Steve Beshear congratulating her for turning 100. She re-registered in June because she moved.

She's not sure yet who she will vote for, although she is leaning toward Obama.

"You want a good man," she said. "He seems to be very intelligent. I like him."

At 100, though, she has buried two husbands and has written her own biography. She could bypass the elections this year. She has earned the rest. Why is voting so important?

"It just is," she said. "It is my privilege and I'm going to take part in it. I didn't live to be 100 for nothing."

Maybe that's what it is. Maybe we in America are finally realizing what Stoddard, Pollak and Gaudette have learned in the century they have lived on this Earth.

We can really make a difference this year. Our vote will count. Sitting on the sidelines is always an option, but it is not as much fun.

That's as good a reason as any to be excited this year.