by Max Marbut
If the goal is to establish a good habit, one of the best ways to accomplish that is to take up the habit at an early age.
That’s the concept behind the 2008 Countywide Voter Registration Drive. It’s a project of the Supervisor of Elections Office in conjunction with more than 55 Duval County public and private high schools, colleges and universities.
“Starting students off early in the voting process is essential in providing a foundation for Democracy to continue for future generations,” said Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland.
Forty nine schools participated in last year’s drive that registered 5,213 students in two days. Holland said changes made to voter registration laws by the State legislature, as well as the new leadership at Duval County Public Schools, led to a larger vision for this year’s event than in years past. The 2008 campaign will last three days, April 21–24, with the goal of adding 7,500 new young voters.
State law was recently changed to allow voter pre-registration at age 16 with a valid Florida driver license. Holland said the idea is to get new drivers to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they get their first license. When they reach 18 years of age, they are automatically added to the registration roll and issued their voter identification card.
“Until this year, pre-registration wasn’t available until age 17, but with the change to 16 years, I think we’ll catch a lot more students this year,” said Holland.
The opportunities to register at each school will also be expanded. Holland said School Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals is behind the effort, and students will be able to register this year during lunch, in between classes, after school and even in their social studies class.
“The new superintendent authorized our staff to meet the school principals to get permission to allow registration in the classrooms,” said Holland.
Since the 2005 campaign, the drive to register students has added 8,800 voters to the Duval County electorate.
The 18- to 25-year-old age group represents the second-largest percentage of voters in Duval County, exceeded only by voters 65 years and older.
While students will have a convenient opportunity next week to register to cast a ballot in the Aug. 26 primary election, non-students have until July 28 to register or change party affiliation. For more information on registering to vote or the upcoming elections, visit www.duvalelections.com