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Mundy's Mill High School pupils learn how to use voting machines

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Sharita Evans' will turn 18 in December, and her first chance to vote in an election will be the presidential primary on Feb. 5, 2008.

The Mundy's Mill High School senior will join the 128,729 registered voters in Clayton County. She is still looking at her options among the candidates, but isn't leaning toward any one candidate, yet.

Evans does know what kind of president she wants to see succeed George W. Bush in 2008, though.

"I want to know if they are the right person for the job, will they do the best job they can," Evans said.

Evans was one of six students with disabilities ,from Mundy's Mill High School, who visited the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration's office on Wednesday. The students learned how to use the electronic voting machines; who the members of the county commission are; and why they should vote in national, state, and local elections.

Each student got to vote in a mock election in which he or she picked his or her favorite athlete and musician. the students also got to vote on referendums involving year-round school and the use of metal detectors at public school entrances.

"We love to have them come here, because we get to teach them about the voting process," said Annie Bright, the director of Clayton County's Board of Elections and Registration. "This way, they won't feel intimidated when they go to vote for real."

Bright told the students about the two ways the screens on electronic voting machines can be adjusted.

"I found this trip to be really interesting. The machines are really easy to use," said Kala Lofton, a 16-year-old junior.

"They have accommodations for people with disabilities," added Oscar Lopez, 16, also a junior.

"All you have to do is touch the screen," junior, Tyreese Moore, 16, chimed in.

Bright said the students with disabilities ,from Mundy's Mill, Forest Park and Mount Zion high schools, make up the majority of pupils who come to her office each year to learn about the voting machines. She also takes a practice machine to North Clayton High School, so students there school can also learn about electronic voting.

When the Mundy's Mill High School students were asked if they thought more high school students from Clayton County schools should learn how to use the voting machines before they turn 18, they responded almost in unison "Yes!"

"If you vote, you're being a voice," Lopez said. "You can help change stuff around your community."

Other information voters, or future voters, need to know to vote in Clayton County:

· Anyone can register to vote up to six months before they turn 18.

· There are 58 voting precincts in Clayton County.

· October 9, is the voter registration date for the Nov. 6 election, and Jan. 7, 2008 is the deadline for the presidential primary.

· Voters who cast ballots in person, by absentee, advance voting or, at their assigned polling station, need to have one of six types of photo identification (drivers license; state-issued identification card; military ID; government employee ID; valid U.S. passport, and a tribal ID card.) If a person votes by mail, he or she does not need to provide a photo ID.

· If a voter does not have one of the listed forms of identification, they can go to the Board of Elections and Registration's office, located at 121 South McDonough St., Jonesboro, and get a free voter ID card. Those applying must bring an identity document, such as a birth certificate, which shows the voter's full name and date of birth. He or she must be able to prove voter registration, and have proof of residency.