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U. Iowa Students Share First Vote With Their Parents

This story was written by Clara Hogan, The Daily Iowan

While many University of Iowa students are casting ballots for the first time this year, most of their parents are voting veterans.

But UI junior Erin Tuken and her brother, UI freshman Alper Tuken, are sharing their first-time voting experience with their parents.

After 23 years, five presidential elections, a three-year application process that earned them citizenship, and a newfound love of American politics, Fethiye and Taner Tuken, formerly of Turkey, will vote on Nov. 4.

Erin and Alper Tuken - who were both born in the United States - can now vote for the first time as well because they're both at least 18. Their 7-year-old brother is the only family member without that privilege.

Approximately 660,500 people became naturalized U.S. citizens in fiscal 2007, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A month following their marriage, the couple moved from Turkey to Iowa in 1985 after they both received scholarships to study at Iowa State University. Fethiye Tuken is now sociology professor at the University of Northern Iowa, and Taner Tuken works as a mechanical engineer for John Deere. Both live in Cedar Falls with their youngest son, Demir Tuken.

At first, they planned to stay in the United States for only a few years, but theysettled in Iowa after having two children.

"We considered it our honeymoon at first," Fethiye Tuken said. "When I tell [Taner] that we never actually got a honeymoon, he just says, 'we're still on it.' "

The voting age in Turkey was 21, so Fethiye and Taner Tuken have exercised their democracy once.

"We haven't voted for nearly 25 years," Fethiye Tuken said. "This is a historic election, and we are excited to have a voice and to be participating in this process."

Despite not voting, Fethiye and Taner Tuken say they became interested in American politics after they graduated and got jobs.

"We felt like Americans, and we cared about what was happening in the government," Fethiye Tuken said.

Erin Tuken said her parents have always discussed politics and made sure she and her brother were politically informed.

"My mom calls me, and we'll talk about what's going on in the election," she said. "We talk about U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East a lot because, of course, it's pretty important to us."

Alper Tuken said he was excited when his parents finally became U.S. citizens in the spring, even driving to Des Moines to watch them and 18 other people become citizens.

"I was really proud of them," said Alper Tuken, who along with his sister voted early. "I'm glad they went through the process."

Added Fethiye Tuken: "We want to feel that experience that's sacred on Election Day."

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