10/31/2008 at 10:00 AM EDT
voted for the first time Thursday and she tells PEOPLE exclusively that casting a ballot for president made her feel "so completely American."
The 18-year-old country star waited in line in Sumner County, Tenn., for an hour and a half on the last day of the state's early voting period. "I wasn't going to be able to vote on Nov. 4 because I'm going to be in L.A.," she explains. "But there wasn't a chance I was going to let this slip away."
Though Swift tried to go unnoticed, the leggy blonde star was easily spotted and doled out autographs while she waited. "The line wrapped around the building," she laughs, "but I can honestly tell you that it was worth the wait. I felt like I really accomplished something special. It's like exercising – you think about it and you're like, 'Wow, there's going to be a long line, there's going to be a lot of effort involved,' but afterwards you feel so good."
Swift, who spoke with PEOPLE in Nashville before the taping of a CMT Giants special honoring Alan Jackson, says she "can't share" whether Barack Obama or John McCain got her vote, but says she made an effort to educate herself on both candidates.
"I watched the debates and I read all kinds of articles on each person and each vice president and what they believe in and where their priorities are," she says.
In the end, however, "I went with my gut instinct," she says. "I wavered back and forth the entire time I was waiting in line and when I got into the voting booth, I said, 'That's the one I'm voting for,' and I pressed the button. And I feel good about it!"
Swift says she and her friends have been swept up in politics this year like never before. "I've never, ever seen in any election the passion about voting before in people my age," she says. "Everyone I know is obsessed with their opportunity to vote. I see people getting involved and there is something really, really beautiful about that."
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