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Kids: 'Register to vote'

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The older kids were acting all cool. Standing by the busy road with their new T-shirts and political signs, trying to look like fashion ads and magazine covers.

Not Mikyla Harvey.

She was holding her sign above her head and yelling at the passing cars with all the passion of a really radical political activist.

Harvey, 9 years old, yelled: "Register to vote!"

Her sign, written in crayon, read: "I'm too young to vote but you're not too young. Please vote."

Harvey was helping out in a Thursday afternoon voter registration drive. Out in front of the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House in Riverdale, facing the passing cars on Ga. Highway 85, she and a few dozen other kids from LITE House Partners, Inc., were urging people to vote.

Melvin Morris, the executive director of LITE House, said his organization and the SCLC Women, Inc., were working with hip-hop superstar Usher and civil rights leader Joseph Lowery in a week-long registration drive. The goal, Morris said, is to increase voter registration, but also to get the young people, like Harvey, involved in the democratic process.

"We're just starting to get them involved," Morris said. "We basically try to tell them their school system, the police, everything about their lives is affected by the democratic process, and you have to be registered to vote, if you want to make a difference."

David Wilkins, who just graduated from Lovejoy High School and is going to college this fall, is one of the LITE House kids who has learned the lesson of involvement.

He voted for the first time in the primary on July 15, and said he was shocked by the low turnout.

"I'm 18," Wilkins said, "so I believe, if I'm out here trying to make our city, our country, our world better, then people older than me should be, too. They don't care? That's ridiculous."

Wilkins said he was also excited by Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and was motivated to vote because of him. "It's a chance for an African American to become president. It's a new opportunity," he said.

Morris said presidential campaigns always attract attention, even the attention of kids who normally don't follow the news.

The voter-registration drive, he said, is a way to capture that attention and put people into the process, creating a habit of citizenship.

"It's a great time to educate the elementary, middle and high school students," Morris said. "Just to get them involved."