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Gainesville High students register to vote

POSTED: April 25, 2014 11:43 p.m.

Caroline Givogre holds a sign marking the location for students to register to vote Friday in the hallway of Gainesville High School. Gainesville High students who are 17-and-a-half years old had the opportunity to register to vote online or fill out a voter registration card.

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History and civics instructor Kathy Smith knows politics. She worked as a congressional aide for then-Rep. Nathan Deal, who is now governor.

For the past 16 years, she has headed voter registration drives at Gainesville High School.

“Usually we try to shoot to register between 20 and 30,” she said. “If we get 30, that’s good.”

Promoting civic engagement is a hallmark of education, and Merrianne Dyer, superintendent of Gainesville City Schools, said this was as good a year as any to get students on the voter rolls with the primary election’s early timing.

“The exciting thing about this year is because the primary elections have been moved forward to May, the seniors in high school will be able to vote while they’re in high school,” she said.

Students age 17-and-a-half are eligible to register. Rashelle Edwards, a senior voting clerk for Hall County, pointed out that newly registered student Angellika Goss made the deadline by three days, with a Nov. 8 birthday. The general election is on Nov. 11.

Goss said she heard the announcement on the public address system, and the convenience appealed to her.

“It seemed like a simple way to register to vote,” she said. 

Edwards said the county registrar goes to high schools all around the county, not just Gainesville.

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said the drives are one of the best ways to encourage civic participation, although the message is instilled early.

“Certainly we try to do everything we can to encourage not only high-school-aged students, but all the way from elementary and middle-school students the importance of taking part in the political and democratic process of the country,” he said.

“Anything that we can do to get this generation involved in the future of our community and nation is a good thing,” he added.

By the end of the day, Smith said, 34 students had registered. One registrant was particularly special, she said: newly minted U.S. citizen Tyler Nguyen.

“(He) came by this afternoon to inform me that he had received his citizenship today and wanted to register to vote, and of course, we did,” she said.


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