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With experienced political past, Boston seniors cast votes in 2012 elections

Fernando Ponce, 81, grew up with a government ruled by Communist dictators and social unrest.

But even though he came from Chile, an underdeveloped country where he saw political corruption, Ponce said he is very critical of the flaws in the American political system.

“This country has too much discrimination, too much inequality,” he said. “Too much of it for a people who are educated.”

He said he has been particularly disturbed by the racism he sees within the political sphere.

“This country has a lot of racism and that is so different from my country,” he said. “We don’t have the kind of racism that you have. When you see the controlling of the restrictions that they are trying to put on the voting for minorities – what is that?”

Ponce, a Democrat, emigrated to the U.S. from Chile as a young man. He describes himself as “a close observer of politics.”

“I have studied a lot and I have read a lot of writers like Locke and these philosophers who created the ideology that influenced the independence of the U.S.,” he said.

As residents of the Hale Barnard House in Boston’s Back Bay, both Ponce and Josh Vernaglia, 68, have experienced a rich political history.

Vernaglia, a Republican, retired lawyer and Boston University alumnus, served as the campaign manager for Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Lakian in 1994, where he said he worked lots of late nights.

“Likian faced off against Mitt Romney, and had he won we would have faced off against Teddy Kennedy, but he lost the Republican primary to Mitt Romney,” Vernaglia said.

His time in the political arena granted him the opportunity to meet many important political figures, including Joe Kennedy Jr.

While he described Kennedy as a regular guy, Vernaglia said that a meeting a Kennedy is always an impressionable experience.

“In those days, as now, it is almost impossible to beat a Kennedy,” he said with a laugh. “You will see the landslide that Joe Kennedy III brings in — it will be unbelievable.”

Both men first voted in the U.S. presidential election when Richard Nixon was running for office again George McGovern in 1972. At the time, the legal voting age was 21 and the campaign process was far different.

“It was much more mannered in those days,” Vernaglia said. “Not as aggressive or mean.”

The two men differed on opinions of the presidential candidates.

Vernaglia did not view President Barack Obama’s term favorably.

“The promise belied the reality of Obama,” he said.

But Ponce said that all Obama failed to accomplish could not be solely blamed on him.

“You cannot say that when you elected someone that you elected a god,” he said. “You elected a human being, someone who is limited by education by ideology and not having everyone work together.  You have to get the right people for the right purposes.”

The conversation surrounding the president brought the two men to contest the fundamental ideals on which the country is governed.

“The American way is not working but you say that the American way is the only way and that is a problem of this country, Ponce said. “The American way is tolerating ignorance, poverty and all of that.”

Vernaglia did not agree and responded simply.

“I am not saying it is the only way, but it is our way,” he said. “We are Americans.”

Vernaglia and Ponce were sure to cast their vote on Tuesday, each supporting their respective party.

Vernaglia was firm on the importance of widespread voting.

“We must be sure to be educated and vote,” he said. “It is our duty as American citizens.”

While both men said they would carefully watch the election coverage throughout the day, they planned to turn in for the night before the final votes were in.

For the two seniors, announcement of the new leader of the U.S. would just have to wait until Wednesday morning.

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