Voter registration was the subject of the day at Onteora High School on March 3 and 4, when representatives of the Ulster County Board of Elections visited Grade 11 and Grade 12 students enrolled in Civics, AP Government, AP U.S. History, and U.S. History courses.
In addition to leading conversations that ranged from gerrymandering to ballot security measures to the selection of polling places, the visitors handed out paperwork that allowed the students to register, or pre-register, to vote.
Appropriately enough, the visits took place on and just after “Super Tuesday,” a day when 14 U.S. states held presidential primaries and American Samoa held its caucus.
The representatives—John P. Quigley (the Republican Deputy Commissioner of the Ulster County Board of Elections) and Ashley Dittus (the Democratic Commissioner of the Ulster County Board of Elections)—explained how the voter registration process works in New York, where a new law allows 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote. Those aged 16 and 17 who have pre-registered to vote will be automatically registered to vote when they reach the age of 18.
Speaking of his Civics class, teacher Steve Knoche said, “We’ve been following the Democratic primary process. We’re trying to get students to register to vote. Voter registration forms are always in the classroom.”
A recent assignment, Knoche noted, asked students to answer the following question: “Do any political parties represent me?” The students were tasked with investigating and evaluating the positions of a political party of their choice. “We follow local elections as well,” he said.
The visit was in keeping with the Onteora Board of Education’s goal to “Increase K-12 student knowledge and engagement in civics, social studies, and social issues” by supporting a number of actions, including secondary school voter education and registration.