09/21/11 — Getting set to make their voices heard at ballot box

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Getting set to make their voices heard at ballot box

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 21, 2011 1:46 PM

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Samantha Price, a junior at Southern Wayne High School, fills out a voter registration form. Although Miss Price is only 16, new rules now allow students 16 and 17 years old to pre-register to vote.

Samantha Price, a junior at Southern Wayne High School, helped set up a table for voter registration outside the cafeteria Tuesday before hanging a sign encouraging students to stop by and sign up.

She hadn't planned to register herself, since she's "only 16," but was encouraged to do so by Connie Kammler, an elections specialist with the Wayne County Board of Elections.

A new bipartisan bill, House Bill 908, was signed into law by the governor in late 2009, she said, providing 16- and 17-year-old residents the right to pre-register to vote.

Ms. Kammler has been traveling around to area schools to get the word out.

"I'll be visiting nine public, three private schools and the college (Wayne Community)," she said. "We hope to have 200 to 300 sign up. Because this is not a presidential year, there's not as much they can vote for."

The process is simple, she said.

"They fill out a form, get a sticker. If they're 18, in about two weeks, they'll get a voter registration card," she said. "The state system checks birthdays every day and whenever their birthday comes up, when they turn 18, we generate a voter registration card. As long as they haven't moved, they'll get it."

As "Citizens Registration Awareness Month" is rolled out across the state, Wayne County Public Schools is working with the local Board of Elections by holding voter registration and pre-registration events, said Ken Derksen, public information officer for the district.

"For several years, our high schools have worked with the local Board of Elections to hold annual voter registration and pre-registration events for students who are 18 or who will turn 18 by the next election," said Joyce Cunningham, director of social studies for the district. "In recent years, the General Assembly changed the legal age requirement for voter pre-registration and required that our high schools work to inform 16- and 17-year-old students that if they choose to pre-register, they can be ready to vote when they turn 18."

In addition to incorporating lessons into history and civics classes at the high school level, voter registration information is posted for students and parents on school and district websites, Derksen said. Forms are also available in school media centers for students to complete and mail to the local Board of Elections.

"Government elections and the voting process are key topics in our civics courses, as well as topics for discussion and activities in other courses," Mrs. Cunningham said. "We are appreciative of the Wayne County Board of Elections for its continued efforts to work with our high schools to enhance classroom curriculum and promote voter awareness."

"The teachers talk it up a bit, they're aware we're coming," Ms. Kammler added. "Next year we're hoping to have a big push because it's a presidential year."