by Max Marbut
Touch screen or paper. Early, absentee or election day.
There is more than one way to vote, but one thing is certain: if you aren’t registered, you can’t cast a ballot any way.
That’s why the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office is trying to get more young people voting with the 2007 Countywide Student Voter Registration Drive. The drive is Jan. 24-25 at all public and private high schools, colleges and universities.
Poll workers have volunteered to set up tables at more than 50 locations to provide information and voter registration applications. Last year, more than 3,400 new young voters were added to the rolls.
While everyone who gets a drivers license is offered the chance to register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles, some people don’t take advantage of the opportunity, said Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland.
“The DMV doesn’t catch them all,” he said. “It’s part of our process to try to register every person who is eligible to vote. This program is important because it not only gets students to register to vote, it also educates them about the importance of voting and involves teachers and administrators in the process.”
“The 17-to-21 age group is the largest voting group in the county,” said Bennie Seth, deputy supervisor of elections. “We really push to get them registered.”
Dr. Thomas Worley, supervisor of social studies for Duval County Public Schools, said he thinks civic education is important for students: “You learn concepts better when it involves you. Reading about a subject is one thing, but participating is much better.”
Richard Herbert, director of student activities at The Bolles School, said the voting program has been a hit since it began in 2003.
”Most of our students are politically active or at least aware,” he said. “The students who are really active on campus support the drive. It gives our students a broader involvement in the political process and they realize they have the power.”
The registration campaign at Bolles also inspired some new activities for students, according to Herbert.
“After the first one, student political clubs formed for Republicans and Democrats. That had never happened before,” he said.
As of Jan. 11, Duval County has:
• 570,356 people eligible to vote
• 541,474 registered voters
• 199,966 registered Republicans
• 243,771 registered Democrats
• 97,737 registered with other parties
Feb. 20 is the last day to register to vote or change party affiliation for the March 20 election.
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