By Elisa Moraes-Liu
On Sept. 25 the League of Women Voters (LWV) held a voter registration drive at Gunn to celebrate National Voting Day and prepare students for the upcoming school board and midterm elections. Students over the age 18 were able to register to vote, and those over 16 were able to pre-register.
LWV is a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to encourage civic participation through voter education and voter registration. “Free and fair elections lie at the heart of our democracy,” league member Liz Jensen said. “Engaging students by registering them to vote is one of the ways the League of Women Voters serves and protects our democracy.”
The voter registration drive was part of a continuous effort by the LWV to promote student voter registration. “We’ve really enjoyed registering students in the high schools in Palo Alto and hope that we’ve inspired them to get out and vote in our next election on Tuesday, Nov. 6,” Jensen said. “We registered 276 students at Gunn last year and over a thousand when you include students at Paly and other private high schools.” On Sept. 25, the league held another successful registration drive. “We registered 56 students at Gunn on Tuesday,” Jensen said. “I’m happy with the numbers.”
Registration efforts have been received positively by students and administration. “Exercising our civic duty as citizens is important,” senior Hannah Kim said. “Even as students, we have the power to make a change. We are the future so we should make sure we are exercising our voice and making it clear what our opinions are.”
Principal Kathy Laurence agrees with Kim’s sentiments. “We all have a civic responsibility to vote,” Laurence said. “That’s the way our voice is heard; it’s super important for people to exercise that vote that they have. Even when we think it doesn’t matter, it does matter. If you don’t, you’ve abdicated your right as a citizen of the United States.”
The league hopes to increase turnout for the student voters who they have registered. “Before the Nov. 6 election, we have planned two postcard writing events where league members will write postcards to students that we registered last year and ask them vote,” Jensen said.
The league has also been working educate voters about issues and candidates that will appear on their ballot. “The league does a number of things to educate voters before elections,” LWV member Elizabeth Gardner said. “We provide a great deal of nonpartisan, impartial information about elections through something called the http://votersedge.org, which is an online source for voting information. We also hold a lot of forums and seminars in Palo Alto on virtually everything that’s on the ballot locally.”
In the future, the league hopes to continue expanding efforts at local high schools to increase student civic participation. In previous years, the league has organized visits to social studies classrooms to register students to vote. They are planning to continue organizing visits to classrooms after the midterm election season. Additionally, the LWV also hopes to work with students in creating “Get out the vote” campaigns. “I would like to partner with a school group or leader to plan voter registration and get out the vote activities,” Jensen said. “The recent groundswell in student-led activism shows that when students lead the way, the results are powerful.”