DOBSON — Surry County’s state mandated program of voter advance registration for 16-year olds entered it third year this month. Director of Elections Susan Jarrell pointed out the efforts to involve young voters have been ongoing as long as September has been voter registration month.
Jarrell praised the cooperation of the area’s four high schools in registration efforts. She said they had received a good reception from high schools who always allow them to set up their table in a common area close to school lunchrooms. She also said local schools have been great about displaying informational posters from the Board of Elections.
Although the voting age in the state is 18, those who are 16 years of age can go ahead and register, becoming eligible on their 18th birthday without additional registration work.
“We would absolutely love to get all these folks registered,” commented Jarrell. “We didn’t see as many register in the high school preregistration this year. I believe this is because the majority of registrations are done at the Division of Motor Vehicle when the students get their driving licenses. They are already preregistered and ready to go.”
Jarrell said that in general, registration is up in Surry County with a total of 3,834 citizens registering. The student voter drives this year had 57 new registrants and 17 additional advance registrants. She explained that more than 200 students are registered. The information is held in the system until four months before the student’s 18th birthday. A card is sent them to verify the information and the last step is their voter card being mailed to them.
She said she wants to remind voters that the office will stop updating registrations 25 days before the election. Voters that missed updating their registration may still vote but this will take more time at the voting areas when the registration must be updated.
Gov. Beverly Purdue’s proclamation of September as Citizens Awareness Month indicated the state had potentially more than one million unregistered eligible voters, including younger citizens who historically have lower voter registration and voter participation rates. The proclamation states that the drive is a cooperative effort between the state board of elections and 100 county election boards as well.
Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina reports that more than 60,000 North Carolina teenagers will be eligible to vote in the November election as a result of the state law. The nonpartisan election reform group reports that teen advance registrants statewide are equally affiliating with the Democratic and Republican parties at 30 percent. The group reports that one percent is aligning with the Libertarian Party and 39 percent are choosing neither party.
“These young voters run the gamut from those signing up at the DMV almost automatically when they get their first driver’s license, to those who fill out the form in high school after studying the election process in their civics’ class,” said Hall. “They are more independent and more inclined to evaluate candidates without without relying on party labels.”
Hall reports that more than 8,500 youth ages 16 and 17 preregistered during September last year and looks to equal that this year. Five other states allow citizens to preregister as young as 16. North Carolina is the only one that now requires election officials to drives annually in schools. Preregistration is also held in Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland and Rhode Island.
The group reports that between January 2010 and August 2011, a total of 107,400 teens aged 16 and 17-years have registered and automatically become fully registered when they reach voting age.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.