Students register to vote at school
(Wednesday, May 18, 2016)
Article, photos and video produced by 21st Century Journalism Students Kennedy Kats, Keith Nagy and Nicole Gerber
On May 4, students at Silver Lake not only had a chance to chow down outdoors, but they also had an opportunity to register for voting. The League of Women Voters (LWV) teamed up with the high school administration to create a voter registration drive, in conjunction with the annual cookout.
This event, held in the high school, resulted in nearly 55 juniors and seniors signing up to participate in the democratic process. Mackensie Haverkamp, junior, was one of many who took advantage of this event.
“I think registering to vote is very important because not only are we given the option to vote for our country’s future, we also need to act upon it,” Haverkamp explained.
With important upcoming elections in November and voter turnout being at a record low, Superintendent Tim Hallacy said he was eager to get young people to participate.
“Our representative democracy works best when the voices and opinions of the masses are heard, and that is most effectively done through high voting participation.
“We know that if young people start voting as soon as they are eligible, the chances of them continuing to participate in our democracy by being informed and voting is much higher,” Hallacy remarked.
Hallacy intended for this to start a political dialogue within the community, engaging younger voters with their democracy.
“I hope it encouraged students to begin having political conversations with their parents about their own political philosophy and how their beliefs may translate into public policy,” Hallacy clarified.
He also pointed out that the stakes of this year’s election are high, with many important decisions being deliberated by the legislature.
“There are a number of important decisions being made by elected officials that directly impact students...cost of student loans and debt, educational standards, the level of education funding for K-12 education, and opportunities they have traditionally enjoyed as part of their K-12 experience,” he said.
Hallacy collaborated with the LWV, a civic engagement group that holds thousands of these drives around the nation.
“I was familiar with their efforts to register citizens to vote...Their experience in signing up citizens to vote and their non-partisan nature made them a natural resource to reach out to,” Hallacy said.
The LWV has been around since 1920, the same year that women’s suffrage was universalized in the United States. Since then, members such as Ethel Edwards have been actively involved in the democratic process.
“A big thing that the league does besides helping people register to vote is they push to get out the vote. The league always preaches that if you are registered, you need to vote,” Edwards, a member of the league, mentioned.
Edwards attributed the low voter turnout in the past to apathy and frustration with the system.
“I think people are frustrated with the politics of the situation, and they only ever hear the negative aspects of it. They never hear what the positive results of an election can do for you,” Edwards asserted.
According to Haverkamp, the event was quite convenient.
“It was very, very helpful to me to have the League of Women Voters come. I would’ve had no idea what I was doing without their help, so I definitely appreciate them coming,” Haverkamp affirmed.
With over 50 students registering to vote at this event, Hallacy said he foresees more events like this in the future.
“I anticipate this will be a continual opportunity we will provide for our eligible students each year. I also anticipate opening up this to community members as well who would like to register to vote and participate in our republic,” Hallacy said.
Senior Cole Baird learns the registration process from League of Women Voters Member Ethel Edwards. (Photo by Nicole Gerber)
Juniors Riley Calderwood and Josh Wilson carefully fill out their registration forms. (Photo by Nicole Gerber)
Buttons are waiting to be handed to the newly registered voters. (Photo by Nicole Gerber)