By: Ashley Winterstein
High School Seniors have much to accomplish during the last year of their secondary education. With prom, graduation, and college or full time employment looming, one task easily delayed is the important civic duty of registering to vote.
For the first time, the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education, Character Counts!, and the Queen Anne’s County League of Women Voters (LWV QAC) collaborated to offer a voter registration opportunity on campus to eligible students at Kent Island High School and Queen Anne’s County High School.
Tina Davis, Supervisor of Instruction for the areas of Social Studies and Career Technology in Queen Anne’s County, organized the event in hopes of making the task of registering easier and more likely for students. She contacted the non-partisan LWV QAC to assist in the venture. Jacki Carter, a member of Board of Directors of the LWV QAC and also Character Counts! Coordinator, saw this as “an excellent opportunity for students to practice citizenship in an meaningful manner.”
Members of the Kent Island High School Student Government Association and students in Elaine McNeil’s Government Class at Queen Anne’s County High School were asked to promote the event and assist at their respective schools.
On April 19, 2010 students who will be 18 years of age before November 2, 2010 were invited to their school’s cafeteria to participate in the voter registration, as they will be eligible to vote in the General Election this year.
Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney and active Character Counts! coach, Lance Richardson, was present at each school to share a few key points about the voting process. Richardson stressed that citizens must participate in the democratic process to have a say in how their towns, counties, and nation are run. He also explained that while voting is important, an educated vote is even more important. Learning about the candidates, the programs they support, and how they plan to spend taxpayer money are vital steps in the voting process.
To emphasize the magnitude of the right and responsibility that Americans have to participate, Richardson reminded the students of the women’s suffrage movement and that women didn’t get the right to vote until the 20th century. He also shared that although African Americans were granted the right to vote in the 1860’s, it actually took more than century before they truly got the right to vote due to intimidation tactics, fear, and literacy tests that were commonly used to keep African Americans from voting until the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.
Mary Campbell, Co-President of the Queen Anne’s County League of Women Voters, also spoke to the students and emphasized Richardson’s points about the intense struggle women endured not so long ago to earn their right to vote.
Using two of the Character Counts! Six Pillars of Character, she reminded them, “Exercising your right to vote is good citizenship; making sure you use your right to vote thoughtfully is being responsible.” Campbell was also able to direct the students on how to handle absentee and early voting, as some may be going off to college before the elections.
All parties involved have called the day a success and a project they hope will become an annual event. One hundred and three students at both high schools combined registered to vote that day, with many taking the forms home to fill in the other necessary personal information.
Dr. Carol Williamson, Superintendent of Schools, expressed her support of this event, stating, “This collaborative venture will ensure we have laid that foundation for those students eligible to vote in November. These students have passed the first hurdle; that of getting registered. The second hurdle will become that of informing one’s self of the platforms of each of the candidates. The final hurdle will be that of going to the polls and voting.”
James Evans, Kent Island High School Student Government Association Advisor, shared that the students “recognized that the importance of voting is not just left up to others, but that every vote really does count.” He continued by saying, “I feel that character is a very important trait. Not just for a candidate running for office, but for the voter as well. It is vital that we teach and instill in our students that you must have integrity as well as character in all that you do.”
Carter feels this was an excellent way to involve the students and encourage them to become contributing members of society. She shared after the event, “Our young adults need to step up to the plate and seriously practice citizenship. One means is through voting in an educated, caring and responsible manner. Hopefully, along with the schools, we have started these young adults on a pathway to enriching and supporting our communities, both locally and globally.”
If you would like more information about the League of Women Voters in Queen Anne’s County, please contact Mary Campbell at 410-758-3071.
For more information about the Character Counts! program, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677 or email@example.com. Queen Anne’s County Character Counts! is a part of QAC Community Partnerships for Children and Families, our local management board.