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Election officials campaign for young voters

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Keelia Grant and Janay Pettigrew, both 18, are ambassadors for the election process.

The Luella High School seniors are Henry County's newest deputy registrars.

"The youth, we're not involved like we should be," Grant said. "We're [future] leaders, and it's up to us to vote."

Added Pettigrew: "It's very important to let our peers know that we can, and do, have a say in what we want."

The Luella pupils were deputized, Thursday, along with their Career & Technical Instruction teacher, Regina Akery, at the Henry County Board of Elections and Registrars Office in McDonough.

Dozens of high school principals, educators, and community leaders are being deputized this month as part of a statewide campaign to register young, new voters.

"Registering to vote is the first step toward becoming an active citizen in your community, our state and our country," Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in a statement this week.

Kemp is encouraging high schools to hold voter registration drives throughout the month of April, the state's official High School Voter Registration Month.

Akery hopes Grant and Pettigrew will be able to help make the election process more alluring to their peers with the use of school-wide broadcasts, posters, and in-class announcements.

There are nearly 500 Luella students, at least 17 years and six months old in age, who may be eligible to vote, according to Akery. However, she added, another 1,800 who are not yet eligible stand to benefit indirectly from their voter-awareness campaign.

"They need to understand the importance of exercising their right to vote," Akery said.

Students who view their high school graduations, and obtaining their driver's licenses, as milestones toward their adulthood, do not tend to hold voter registration in the same regard, according to Frances Jackson, Henry County's assistant director of elections.

"That's what we want to change," Jackson said. "That is a goal of our office, because that should be a rite of passage, another thing they can look forward to. This year, we're offering ourselves to go out to schools, public and private, to make it happen."

According to the Georgia Secretary of State's office, to register to vote in Georgia, one must be a citizen of the United States; a legal resident of Georgia, and of the county in which he or she plans to vote; and at least 17 1/2 years old. A person may not register to vote if that person is currently serving any sentence imposed by the conviction of a felony, or judicially determined to be mentally incompetent.

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On the net:

Georgia Secretary of State: www.sos.ga.gov

Henry County Board of Elections and Registrars: www.co.henry.ga.us/Registrars