As Presidential candidates campaign for voters, the looming question of who can bring out the largely untapped, and elusive, youth vote has yet to be answered.
One Kenai Peninsula organization, the Central Peninsula League of Women Voters, is making its rounds to area high schools this week to help students register to vote and prepare for the upcoming election season.
So far the league has stopped at Kenai Alternative High School, Cook Inlet Academy and River City Academy. Nikiski Middle-High School and Soldotna High School are also on the list this year, said president Gail Knobf. She said the annual event encourages youth to vote.
“We do this every year and it’s kind of great,” said previous president and state board director Lois Pillifant. “We can get the 18-year-olds registered and hopefully they will go vote.”
Tuesday was the first time registration was conducted at River City Academy at their new location in Soldotna Prep, Knobf said.
For the school’s 14 seniors, attending that day was optional.
Social Studies teacher Anna Karron joked that she had never seen so many of her students in the same place at once.
Karron teaches Government and Alaska History in addition to her other classes. She said the league’s registration event highlighted the importance of being involved in the political process which she impresses on her students through their course work.
“Registering means they can participate in government beyond the classroom,” Karron said. “They are getting ready to head out into the real world.”
Daniel Shuler, 18, said studying policy in school had piqued his interest in politics.
“I had been meaning to register,” Shuler said. “I hadn’t taken time to figure out how to do it.”
Haylee Hedger, 18, said she is looking forward to voting in the 2016 United States presidential election.
Karron said she allows her students to receive credit for their political participation “standard,” which River City Academy’s credit system is based upon.
It is essential to teach people how to vote at a young age, Knobf said. The earlier a habit is formed, the easier it is to accomplish that task through out one’s life.
The entire community has the responsibility of teaching “youngsters” the importance of voting, Knobf said.
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter hosts an annual registration event at Kenai Central High School, so the league generally does not stop at that school.
“The mayor is concerned about the young people taking on that responsibility as a citizen,” Knobf said.
Porter’s yearly appearance reinforces the importance of achieving a democracy, she said.
“Our future is in the hands of these young people,” Knobf said. “They need to be educated in the issues so they make good choices, not only for their lives but for our lives too.”
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org