A new wave of political activism is encouraging more young people to vote and potentially change politics.
In Georgia, those young people only need to go to the principal’s office. The little known law turns high school principals into election officials.
For over 20 years, Georgia law requires high schools, public and private, to let students know they can register to vote at school. Have you ever hear of that law? Not many parents knew, and most students didn’t know either, with an important exception.
You might expect Grady High School, among the most politically aware in Georgia, to run active voter registration drives. We walked in to talk to high school junior Selena Kleber, who helped register 55 students and some faculty. But after the Florida high school shooting, security made our interview impossible on short notice. So we talked to a recent Grady Graduate.
“I had no idea that at 17 and a half I could register,” said Elizabeth McGlamry.
McGlamry was a college student before she was registered. Then she learned of the Georgia law allowing her to register as long as she turns 18 before she votes.
I’ve checked a lot of high school websites, nothing on there about voter registration. The law says, “Each principal of every public or private high school… shall inform their students…of the availability of such voter registration… and shall provide procedures.. to enable… qualified applicants to register."
Atlanta Public School officials said every high school held a voter drive this year, but I could not find many high school students registered when I checked with county voting offices.
In the first three moths of this year, DeKalb County registered 80 students, Gwinnett County registered 137 and Fulton County registered just 59.
Sec. of State Brian Kemp’s office said they regularly remind principals of both public and private schools to sign up voters. Yet with those small numbers, it’s hard to see that principals or school systems are informing students as the law requires. With internet access, it’s easy.
“Hey, all I have to do is click here, fill out some information, and I am registered to vote,” McGlamry said.
These small numbers may not be enough to elect a governor, but in close state House or Senate races, they could make a difference, which is exactly what these future voters say they want to do.
The last day to register to vote in the May primary is next Tuesday.
Atlanta Public Schools sent this official statement:
As the home school district of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others who championed the power of the vote, Atlanta Public Schools has an ongoing and regular practice of voter registration at each one of our high schools. Registration drives are coordinated by both school staff and outside organizations that help the school facilitate the drives. This school year, each one of our high school campuses has hosted or will host at least one voter registration drive. Compliance with the state requirement is not new to APS. Voter registration has been a priority of our high schools, and will remain so.
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