RICHMOND – Governor McAuliffe today issued a proclamation to officially recognize April 24-30, 2016 as Virginia High School Student Registration Week. The purpose of the week will be to encourage high school students and teachers across the Commonwealth to conduct voter registration drives at their schools.
Speaking about the proclamation, Governor McAuliffe said, “It is important to reach out to young people early to get them interested and engaged, as government works best when as many citizens as possible have a voice in the democratic process. Making voter registration accessible and convenient for younger voters will ensure that democracy in the Commonwealth is truly reflective of all of our citizens.”
The proclamation comes as the result of a partnership among the Secretaries of Administration and Education, the Department of Elections, Department of Education, and other interested parties to increase voter registration among qualified high school students.
“We know that the earlier someone votes, the more likely that person is to become a lifetime voter,” said Secretary of Administration Nancy Rodrigues. “With this registration week, we are hoping to shape the next generation of voters by inspiring students across the Commonwealth to register.”
In February, the Secretary of Administration’s office coordinated with students at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland to conduct a pilot program for the registration week. The result was a student-led registration drive that produced 105 completed registrations—approximately one-third of the school’s senior class.
Since September 2015, Inspire Virginia, a partner on this project, has helped register 1,525 high school students across the Commonwealth by working with student leaders on similar registration events. “Young people are more likely to register and vote when they have friends who help them navigate the process,” said state director Alex Chandler. “The power of peer influence should not be lost on efforts to get students to register and vote with higher frequency.”
Secretary of Education Anne Holton said, “As we continue to work to prepare the next generation of students for economic and professional success, we must also remain focused on the importance of being engaged and informed citizens. The Virginia High School Registration Week is a great opportunity to do just that.”
This administration hopes to replicate these successes by encouraging students to conduct their own registration efforts throughout High School Registration Week. Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said, “Providing opportunities for our students to apply what they are learning by exercising their civic responsibility is important in preparing them to be responsible and engaged citizens.”
Virginia law allows 17-year-olds to register to vote, as long as they will be 18 on or before the next general election. They may also vote in any intervening primary elections, as 9,152 did in the March 1, 2016 Presidential Primary. “Historically there have been between 3,000 to 4,000 17-year olds registered to vote in our system at any given time,” said Edgardo Cortés, Commissioner of Elections. “We currently have more than 14,000 qualified 17-year olds registered, which is significant, and reflective of the current push to get more students to register.”
High School Registration Week will enable more qualified students to vote not only in the November Presidential Election, but also the June 14th primary elections. Resources will be made available on the Department of Elections’ website to aid students and teachers in planning and conducting voter registration efforts. Contact information for partnering organizations and local voter registration offices that may be able to provide support will also be available.
Virginians can apply to register online at the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal, located at http://elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal/index.html. Registration is also available at the Department of Motor Vehicles, at local voter registration offices and at voter registration drives.