The Davidson County Election Commission, working with elected officials and community groups, kicked off a month-long high school voter registration and education campaign earlier this month to increase the number of eligible students registering and voting during the Presidential election year.
“During the 2015 mayoral election, only two percent of young people aged 18-24 voted,” said Ron Buchanan, chair of the Davidson County Election Commissioners. “Getting high school students registered is just the first step in increasing voter participation among that age group.”
Rep. Jim Cooper and Sen. Steve Dickerson are working with the Election Commission in a nonpartisan effort to increase voter registration in high schools, along with the Mayor’s Youth Council, the League of Women Voters, Metro Council members and others from the community.
“While the Election Commission is required to conduct voter registration for 17 and 18 year olds in public and private high schools in Davidson County, it really is a community undertaking and we’re grateful for the groups who are rallying behind the effort this year,” said Buchanan.
The campaign’s first phase began with 22 high schools hosting assemblies. Organized by Cooper’s and Dickerson’s offices, the assemblies helped to educate and create awareness with students about registration and the importance of voting. Speakers for those assemblies included members from the Mayor’s Youth Council, the Metro Council, Metro Nashville School Board and the State Legislature. Videos produced by local high school students in conjunction with the League of Women Voters were also shown. The first assembly was held for seniors at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School.
Between January 25-28, Election Commission staff and poll officials visited 33 public and private high schools to register eligible 17 and 18 year olds during in-school registration sessions.
According to election law, high school students can register to vote as long as they are U.S. citizens, 17 years old and will be 18 years old on or before the date of the next election, which is the March 1 Presidential and County Primary. The State Primary and County General is August 4 and the Presidential and State General Election is November 8.
Additionally, the Election Commission will have voting machines available at four high schools so students who register to vote can then vote on questions developed by the Mayor’s Youth Council.
“Young people are more interested in community issues than ever before,” said Brandon Hill, Oasis Center youth engagement specialist and coordinator of the Mayor’s Youth Council.
“It is our duty as educators to help them engage in the political process, and to encourage our young citizens to vote. Their voices matter.”
“Last year, we set a record by registering 1,551 students and this year’s expansive community-wide effort should help us register a new record number of eligible 17- and 18-year-old voters,” said Buchanan.