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January 17, 2014

VIDEO: Voter registration efforts pay off

Teacher pushes students to register

CAYUGA — Getting a 100 percent score on a test is probably a goal for most students.

It was also the goal of one North Vermillion High School teacher who achieved that 100 percent mark on his own test, which was  to register all voter-eligible teenagers at the school.

Trevor Smith was honored for reaching that goal on Thursday when Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined Vermillion County Republican Party Chairman Tim Yokum for a surprise presentation to the high school social studies teacher.

“In recognition of your efforts in promoting the importance of government to your students at North Vermillion High School” reads the plaque presented by Yokum.

The school has 70 juniors and seniors who were born before Nov. 4, 1996 — making them eligible to vote in both the May primary and the November general election. In fact, one student was born on Nov. 4, 1996 — just barely making the cutoff to participate in the selection of elected officials.

Even though some students will still be age 17 when the primary occurs, if they are age 18 by the general election, they are eligible to vote in the primary so they can help determine which final candidates make it to the November ballot.

“I try every year to get kids registered to vote,” Smith said. “In the past, it’s been just the seniors. This is the first year we have gotten both juniors and seniors.”

Reaching the 100 percent mark on voter registration at the school has never been recorded, said Yokum, who noted that South Vermillion High School is close to reaching that mark as well.

Yokum presented the award to Smith in his classroom so that students can see that the effort he makes to get them registered is something worth recognition. Smith has taught his entire career – 21 years – at NVHS, covering social studies, U.S. history and sociology. One of his mentors got him interested in registering students, he said, and he feels it is important they have input into their country’s government.

“It’s gonna be their country one of these days,” Smith said, “and I want to leave them something they can be proud of.”

Zoeller said he is glad to see a teacher encouraging students to vote, because it is not only a right, it is a responsibility of all eligible citizens.

“As attorney general, I defend he rights of the state and its citizens,” Zoeller said. “But seldom do I see anyone talk about the responsibility. We all know we have the right to vote, but too few exercise the responsibility to vote.”

Zoeller noted that young people ages 18 to 26 are the demographic with the lowest voter turnout.

Smith said that young people should be very interested in voting because of some of the ethical and technological decisions that will be put before legislators in the future.

“These are interesting times we are entering,” Smith said.

While all 70 eligible students are now signed up to vote, Yokum noted, the next challenge is to make sure they show up at the polls for the primary and general elections.

Smith agreed that now, the followup will begin to keep the young voters interested in casting their ballots.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

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