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MAHS assembly starts push to get high school students registered to vote

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/1/18

With about 500 public school districts in Pennsylvania, Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Robert Torres has to be careful who he is rooting for.

But as he lives in Lower Swatara Township and …

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MAHS assembly starts push to get high school students registered to vote

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With about 500 public school districts in Pennsylvania, Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Robert Torres has to be careful who he is rooting for.

But as he lives in Lower Swatara Township and has two children attending the Middletown Area School District, he’d like nothing better than to see the Blue Raiders win the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award for registering to vote 85 percent or more of the senior class.

“Try to achieve 100 percent registration,” Torres told seniors and juniors during an assembly on Friday, Feb. 1 at Middletown Area High School. “As my home district, I would like you to go for it and get as close to that 100 percent mark as you can. You’ll help me to get bragging rights, which I think is cool.”

Torres, whose office is responsible for elections in Pennsylvania, was accompanied at the assembly by Inspire U.S., a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to registering students and young people to vote and to get them active in elections.

Following remarks by Torres, voter registration forms — and pens to fill them out on the spot — were passed out to the students by high school social studies teachers and by Sarah Weber, Pennsylvania regional coordinator for Inspire U.S., and Hilary Kinney, West Virginia regional coordinator for Inspire U.S.

“We just started in Pennsylvania,” Weber told the Press & Journal before the assembly. “We reached out to a lot of different schools. Middletown was interested in hosting us.”

Besides Middletown, Inspire U.S. has given these student assemblies at Harrisburg, Steelton-Highspire, and Carlisle Area school districts, Weber said.

“I feel it’s very important that my voice is heard through my votes during elections. The Inspire U.S. mission is an awesome thing, as before this meeting I had no idea where to begin registering to vote. I think the idea of an easily accessible application will help drive voter registration and turn out for future elections,” student Logan Witmer said.

Torres told the students that nationwide, 31 percent of 18- and 19-year-old high school students registered to vote for the election in 2016, but only 28 percent voted.

As for as overall voter turnout, 70 percent of eligible voters voted in the presidential election in Pennsylvania in 2016. But only 26 percent did so in the 2017 municipal elections, Torres said.

“In fact, over the past five municipal elections or off-year elections, as they are sometimes referred to, going back to 2007 we did not get over 30 percent of registered citizens to vote,” Torres told the students. “Think about that — last year essentially one out of every four registered voters made decisions for the other 75 percent.”

In the 2018 election the students will have a hand in choosing the state’s next governor and lieutenant governor, members of the U.S. Congress, and members of the state House and Senate.

April 16 is the deadline to register to vote in the May 15 primary. Oct. 9 is the deadline to register to vote in the general election Nov. 7.

First-time voters are required to show identification when they go to the polling place, Torres said. He encouraged the students to visit votespa.com for more information on voting and getting involved in elections.

Quoting President Frankin Delano Roosevelt, Torres said: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Middletown Area High School would qualify for the Silver Level of the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award by registering 65 percent or more of eligible students to vote.

Registering 85 percent or more to vote would earn Middletown the Gold Level of the award — and a visit from Gov. Tom Wolf and the secretary of the commonwealth to present the award at the school, according to the Inpire U.S. website.