Greencastle students lead countywide registration effort

March 19, 2004|by RICHARD BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Franklin County high school students are taking seriously the U.S. Constitution's 26th Amendment, the one that allows 18-year-olds to vote.

It's a countywide effort involving students in all six Franklin County High Schools.

The students are using their lunch breaks to register as many eligible students as they can to vote in the April 27 primary and Nov. 2 general election.

The idea came from Ellen Kirkner, who chairs Greencastle-Antrim High School's social studies department.

The effort began this week and will run through March 26, Kirkner said.

Kirkner e-mailed her counterparts in the county's other high schools and asked them to involve their students in the project.

About 200 students in Kirkner's three civics classes and Greencastle-Antrim High School's National Honor Society enrollees are leading the effort in that school.


Students in high schools in Waynesboro, Chambersburg, Pa.; and Shippensburg, Pa.; James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg, Pa.; and the Scotland School for Veteran's Children are participating, she said.

Any 17-year-old who turns 18 by April 27 for the primary and by Nov. 2 for the general election can register.

The 26th Amendment was adopted in 1971.

Kirkner's students promoted the registration by making and putting up posters around their school encouraging students to sign up with such slogans as "If you were born before 11/2 you can vote," and "Put some effort into the government. Vote."

The students also put commercials on the in-school television station that reaches into every classroom, and wrote letters to area newspapers encouraging 18-year-olds to register, Kirkner said.

Laura Smith, 18, a Greencastle-Antrim High School senior, said she has learned the importance of voting in Kirkner's class.

"Voting gives you a voice in who decides the laws that we all have to obey," she said.

Students also have been discussing President Bush's call to invade Iraq because several seniors who graduated in 2003 are in the military there, said Lindsay Frye, 17. Her birthday is in October and she plans to vote, she said.

Joel Wentz turns 18 on July 5. He said national politics are discussed occasionally among students.

Wentz, who plans to vote for the first time this year, already is among a large number of Americans who are listed among the undecideds.

"I like Bush," he said. "I'm not overly impressed with what I've heard about John Kerry, but that could change."

Tad Fridgen, 18, is also registering. He said he thinks that Bush has the morals and principals that are "ideal for the president of the United States to have."

Kyle Haney, 18, was registering at the desk set up in the cafeteria Thursday at noon.

"This is a great idea. From what I've seen there's a high turnout," he said.

Haney said he will be in college in Philadelphia in November and will have to cast an absentee ballot in the election. He said his vote will be for Kerry.

Kirkner said the registrations will be held again from Sept. 20 through Oct. 1.

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