BROOKSVILLE — With the presidential election less than a week away, it seems that the economy is on the minds of even the youngest voters.
"I do think that the economy is the biggest thing," said Sonya Rhoades, 18, a Central High School senior and Barack Obama supporter who will vote in her first presidential election Tuesday.
She's worried about her grandparents and the high prices of food and gas. The costs are taking "a toll on a lot of people who can't afford them," she said.
Classmate Jon Vredeveld is 17 and unable to vote this time, but he agrees that the economy is in trouble. If he could vote, he said he would support John McCain.
"I don't like how Obama is saying how he'd redistribute the wealth. It sounds socialist to me," he said. He doesn't think rich people should have to give up their wealth to be used according to the wishes of politicians.
"There are other ways to give back without giving the government more," he said.
Gregory Rodriguez, a Central High senior, will be 18 on Dec. 3.
"It's a bummer," he said. Missing the chance to vote by a month, though, didn't keep him from asking Jon for specifics about how the rich can give back.
Jon suggested charities. Gregory countered that the wealthy could easily give to institutions from which they could benefit and then write the donations off their taxes.
Gregory, an Obama supporter, addressed Jon's comment about the redistribution of wealth. "That's what taxes are," he said. When Obama talks about spreading the wealth, "he's pretty much just defining what taxes are."
A fourth Central senior, Shaun Cadoret, is 18 and will be voting. He is undecided but leaning toward McCain. The pressing issue for him: abortion.
"I totally disagree with it," he said. "I don't think it should be allowed." He supports adoptions.
Shaun doesn't care for Obama's health care plan, but he's not sure which way to go because of other issues. "I like Obama because of taxes. I think his change is a smart idea."
On the matter of climate control, Shaun said, "I think we need to take precautions to preserve the world and listen to the researchers more."
Sonya agreed, saying there is a lot we are just not doing. "Everyone's too stubborn to change."
Gregory would like to see more electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell cars.
"What's preventing us from using that technology," he said, "is the politicians to fund it. We need a president that doesn't have oil companies in his ear or pockets."
Palin and Biden
The four students all had opinions about the running mates.
"I feel John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin was the absolutely most ridiculous choice any president could make," Gregory said. "She's been mayor in a town in Alaska and hasn't even been governor for two years. There is no way she could deal with foreign affairs. Joe Biden complements Barack Obama nicely. He's well versed in all foreign affairs."
"I think it was a bad choice … as well," Sonya said of Sarah Palin. She said McCain brought Palin in to attract female voters, but she pointed out the problems that have been surfacing about Palin's using government money for her children to travel with her and her abuse of power concerning her former brother-in-law.
"I don't think that she really knows what she's talking about," Sonya said, figuring McCain would have to spend his first term teaching her.
"I think Joe Biden definitely has the experience," Shaun said. "I think Sarah Palin was a very bad choice, (and) that's what turns me off from McCain a lot."
Even strong McCain supporter Jon thinks along the same lines.
"I don't think she's ready to be vice president or president," he said. He would like to have seen Mitt Romney as the VP pick.
A mock election
Even younger students are getting in on the action.
At Spring Hill Elementary School, community service teacher Karen Charlton has been putting together a mock election with the help of Bobby Fox, a representative from the supervisor of elections office.
She hopes to have ballots with the candidates' names. Kindergarteners through second-graders will vote for president and vice president. Ballots for grades 3-5 will include more positions and perhaps local issues. She hopes to have voting machines and "I Voted" stickers.
"I plan to set up a voting precinct and have some of the students mandate the tables and go to town with it. The voting takes place on the real Election Day, Nov. 4, and will take place all day to allow all grades to participate," Charlton said.
She is the adviser to student government this year, so she is considering incorporating those elections on another ballot.