Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of State Robert Torres honored Carlisle High School for its work to register voters Friday with the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award.
The school received the gold level award for a registration effort that resulted in 85 percent of the school’s eligible voters registering to vote. Students eligible to register to vote are those who are either 18 years old, or 17 and will be 18 on or before the date of the next primary, special, municipal or general election.
Students Nick Bowman, Aidan Checkett, Brady Chilson, Josh Staley and Collin Willard were presented with certificates for their leadership in the voter registration drive.
This is the first year for the award offered by the state’s Departments of State and Education in collaboration with Inspire US, a national nonprofit organization that supports high schools in planning and conducting student-led voter registration activities and guides students to engage elected officials on every level.
Inspire US helped Carlisle with its kickoff event in January to introduce the senior class to the project, said Kevin Wagner, a teacher at the high school.
At that time, any student who was not registered to vote signed a pledge card promising that they would do so between January and April. A second assembly was held in February, and along the way the student leaders offered prizes like gift cards, prom tickets and payment for the senior class trip to students who registered.
The students followed up with those who signed pledge cards through individual conversations and at tables set up during lunch periods.
Bowman and Chilson are juniors and are already asking about doing a similar registration drive next year Wagner said.
In his remarks, Torres emphasized the importance of actually going out to vote when the time comes.
“Registering to vote is great, but it’s way more important to get out consistently and vote,” he said.
In 2016, only 31 percent of 18 and 19 year olds were registered to vote. Of that 31 percent, only 28 percent voted, Torres said.
Students in this age group, the post-millennials, will become more prominent in the coming decade when they will represent one in every 10 voters, he said. By the time the 2028 presidential election comes along, the millennials and post-millennials combined will make up nearly half of the voting population.
“You have the opportunity, if you remain civically engaged, to reshape our nation’s politics and the narrative. You can bring with that power far-reaching social and political change,” Torres said.
That opportunity is not lost on the student leaders who organized the voter registration effort.
“For me, the way we enact change is through voting. If you look through our country’s history, anytime there was significant change, people were voting. In today’s society, many young people feel disconnected from their politicians. If young people, specifically high schoolers, start to vote, we will start to see positive change in the world,” Staley said.
“I really think voting is one of the most important things any American can do. There’s always been a trend of low turnout among young people and I think anything we can do that increases political awareness and activity among 18, 19, 20 year olds is tremendously beneficial toward fulfilling the mission of our democracy,” Checkett said.