MT. VERNON — Sixty Mt. Vernon Township High School students registered to vote for the March 18 primary election Wednesday during a special voter registration drive held at the school.
State law now allows 17-year-olds to vote in primaries as long as they turn 18 on or before that year’s general election. This year, the primary is set for March 18 and the general election will be held Nov. 4.
Prior to the change, 17-year-olds could only vote in primaries or general elections if they turned 18 by the date of those elections. The new law changing the rule went into effect Jan. 1.
“Here’s the kicker. If you were born Nov. 4, 1996, or before, you are eligible to vote this March,” said Richard Stubblefield, a retired teacher and a deputy voter registrar.
Stubblefield was on hand for Wednesday’s voter drive to
help guide students through the registration process, which took place in Room 119H.
He said encouraging young people to vote is an important part of ensuring a healthy democracy.
“There’s two groups of voters who vote in lesser numbers, percentage-wise — people 85 years of age and older and ... the other group that (doesn’t) vote are the 18 to 25-year-olds,” Stubblefield said. “I hope at some point that these students, these new voters, will realize that everything they do, their elected officials deal with.”
Kirsten McGowen, a senior at MVTHS, registered to vote Wednesday. She said voting is an obligation for citizens.
“I don’t know much about politics, but I feel like it’s kind of our duty that we should be voting,” McGowen said.
The MVTHS registration drive will continue Friday. The drive is part of the local FFA Chapter’s Farm Bureau Heritage Program.
FFA students were present throughout the registration Wednesday to provide assistance.
In all, 478 students at MVTHS qualify to register to vote for the primary. Organizers of the drive hope to get close to 200 registered this week, said John Kabat, MVTHS agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.
“I feel like if we don’t do it here at the high school, probably over half these kids will never register to vote for the next election,” Kabat said.
Kabat added that voting is one of this nation’s most sacred rights.
“If you were a Communist, they’d knock on your door and they’d put a gun to your head and you’ve got one vote,” Kabat said. “I don’t want it to ever get that way. I want my freedom to vote and have freedom in this country that our Constitution says we have.”