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Students register to vote on Constitution Day
GSC group aims to inform voters
Stephanie Becerra, left, and Jasmine Marrero work on their “Constitutional Checks and Balances” charts as part of a class project Monday at Gainesville High School. - photo by J. Bryan Stiles

About the series

“We The People” is a yearlong examination of the important role that citizens play in making our form of government work.

John Lee Givogre admits he’s an atypical teen as he kneels beside a plastic foldup table in his high school’s lobby.

He, along with several of his classmates at Gainesville High School, registered to vote Monday at a voter registration drive held at the school in honor of Constitution Day.

“I think it’s important for people to participate in elections, whether they’re local or federal. It’s just your civic duty,” Givogre said.

Givogre said politics are his passion and his aspiration. In his spare time he broadcasts a political show on the Internet and said he’s vocal with his opinions.

But he said his interest in politics isn’t representative of the majority of his peers.

“When they do take an interest, which is rare, they’re more interested in the social issues. Issues like gay marriage, abortion, occasionally immigration, not many of them tend to know much about fiscal policy or defense spending,” Givogre said.

Stasha Hopkins and Christian Alvarado, both seniors, stopped by the table to register during their lunch break.

Hopkins filled in all but the signature on Alvarado’s form while he finished his lunch, part of the deal she made to get him to register.

Alvarado said he recently wrote an essay about Wal-Mart that sparked an interest in learning more about the candidates and what they intend to do about the economy and job creation.

“One thing that really caught my attention was that we need more companies. We need more competition,” Alvarado said.

Hopkins said she wasn’t as knowledgeable as she would like to be when it comes to politics.

“Just the fact that I can have a say about what goes on in our country means a lot to me,” she said. “I don’t understand why people wouldn’t want to vote.”

Yasmeen Ali was among the first of her classmates to register to vote Monday. She spent the rest of her lunch break ushering her friends to the table to register as well.

She admitted she’s new to politics; she only started following the presidential elections after watching the national conventions on TV.

As a senior in high school, she said she’s paying close attention to where the candidates stand on issues that will affect her education.

She said she’s excited to be able to cast her vote in November after watching the conventions.

“I was just voting based on what my parents thought, but now I actually know about it and I’m able to have my own opinion,” Ali said.

Which is exactly what some other civic-minded young people want for the newest generation of voters.

Joshua Austin, president of the Politically Incorrect Club at Gainesville State College, said young people are only getting one side of the story when they limit political discussions to family. That is why he feels discussing the issues with a diverse group of people is important.

“We need to talk about these things and not just think about them,” Austin said.

Members of the Politically Incorrect Club held a reading Monday of the U.S. Constitution in observation of the document’s 225th anniversary. The members took turns reading from the Constitution as students walked to and from class in the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building.

Other clubs like the Young Americans for Liberty and Student Veteran Association helped pass out voter registration forms and pocket-sized Constitution books.

Austin said the Politically Incorrect Club is a very diverse group of “political junkies” who meet every week to discuss the government and social issues. The club’s main goal is to help people learn more about government and to seek out information for themselves.

“We really want people informed. The worst thing in the world is an uninformed voter,” Austin said. “We don’t really care what side you vote for but we hate uninformed voters. Our goal is to make sure they know what they’re voting for one way or the other.”

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