Making Sure that Everyone has a Voice

by MaryEllen Daneels, Lead Teacher Mentor, and Barb Laimins, Mentor Liaison

National Voter Registration Day will be held on September 27th. A network of volunteers, schools and community organizations throughout the nation will be providing voter registration opportunities to celebrate a basic right of our democracy. With election day, November 7th, right around the corner it is a good time to for students, their families and communities to get ready.

Participation in National Voter Registration Day can easily become a significant civic service learning opportunity for students as they generate questions, gather and evaluate data, communicate conclusions and take informed action. What is the age group with the lowest voter turnout? Who votes the most? Why don’t people register to vote? What contributes to voter apathy? These and other questions allow students to research patterns, draw conclusions on how best to take action and concentrate voter registration efforts. Parent Open House, Homecoming rallies/games and other back to school events are perfect opportunities for voter registration efforts. Students could create posters, public service announcements, or create twitter blasts to advertise a voter registration drive or the importance of voting. The possibilities are endless. The National Voter Registration Day organization has created a downloadable toolkit that contains press releases, talking points, social media posts and a planning guide to make organizing a registration event simple and effective.

The Illinois State Board of Elections web site provides answers to a variety of questions concerning voter registration and procedures. Illinois allows future voters to register in a variety of ways. An eligible voter can register by mail or online. Students could have copies of the mail registration forms available or computers set up at a registration event. Local Leagues of Women Voters and Illinois branches of the American Association of University Women are two groups that provide volunteers for registration events upon request. Faculty can be appointed Deputy Voter Registrars if the Principal or their designee writes to the local election authority on school letter head requesting their appointment.

Studying voter trends and voter registration drives can be a valuable lesson for students with powerful results as they encourage others to become active participants in our democracy.

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