Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Senior school project acquaints students with voting


With this year’s memorable general elections already underway and polls set to close on Tuesday, one local student has made a goal of including classmates in the process.

Wrangell High School

student Draven Golding has decided to focus on the issue for his senior capstone

project this year. With the cooperation of the city, school and Division of Elections, Golding will set up a table at the Nolan Center lobby on November 8, near to where the official polling will take place. His senior classmates and other

students are encouraged to come by, casting “votes”

using real forms and

getting some practice with registration.

The idea came about during Golding’s time in the Close Up program, which teaches local students about government and coordinates an educational trip to Washington D.C. In preparing participating students for the next year’s trip, one of the current issues they discussed was the idea of lowering age limits to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote.

According to

advocacy group FairVote.org, encouraging younger

people to vote increases civic participation in the long run, suggesting higher turnout rates and more conversations about different issues held around the family dinner table.

Two Maryland communities have already lowered their

voting age restriction, as

have several European countries.

In the discussion, students had mixed feelings about the idea, in part because some felt they did not have enough knowledge about different candidates and issues to make an informed choice. One student admitted he could not name Wrangell’s mayor.

With his teachers’ support, Golding thought it would be a good idea to get classmates more involved in the political process, walking them through registration and voting on Election Day from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“It’s good to have, so younger kids can learn to vote,” he explained.

He found support with teacher Jack Carney, who will bring his senior U.S. government class down to the Nolan Center to vote in Golding’s mock election. Students in his world history and Alaska studies classes are also offered the opportunity to earn extra credit in exchange for their participation.

“Hopefully that’ll encourage kids to get down and vote,” said Golding.

Carney has also encouraged students to treat the exercise as they would a real election, researching the assortment of judges, state-level candidates and initiatives included on this year’s ballot before casting their votes.

“We want them to be educated on the process, but we also want them to be educated voters,” Carney said.

Students aged 18 or older can also take the time to register and vote in the actual election if they like and have not done so already. Those participating in Golding’s project will go through the same process as their parents, using registration sheets and ballots and official privacy booths.

As with a real election, ballots will be reviewed and counted the following day under the supervision of Wrangell’s Close Up program coordinator, Sarah Merritt. To get the word out, in addition to contacting the local newspaper and radio station, Golding has put up fliers around his school and in town.

“I think it’s important because you’re voting for the next president of the United States, and depending on who’s chosen that sets the course for the country,” he explained. “Hopefully they come down and experience it for themselves.”

On the city’s end, clerk Kim Lane explained they would be helping the project by providing leftover city election supplies and two voting booths to use. She liked the idea, as it promoted involvement in civic processes from the get-go.

“We need to have them, as soon as they turn 18, come and register. They’re the voice of the future,” she said.

Lane and Merritt will help oversee the count-out, and will dispose of the documents afterward for privacy’s sake.

In a similar vein, appearing on Alaska’s ballots this year is a proposition to tie voter registration to Permanent Fund Dividend applications. The one would happen automatically with the other, while other forms of existing voter registration would also remain available. Advocates for the proposal suggest the change would make the voting rolls more secure and accurate, while promoting greater participation in the state’s political processes. The state Division of Elections has estimated about 70,000 eligible residents could be added to the rolls in just one year with the change.


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