MHS, CCHS students learn ‘real life’ voting procedures

We recently came across this article that promotes youth involvement in the voting and the local government. It’s great to see such a great program in place.

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Local high school seniors will get a taste of real-world politics and government soon with the annual Senior Student Government Day.

Interested seniors at Murray High School and Calloway County High School will be given the opportunity to job-shadow local city and county officials – but they’ll have to earn the right, just like the officials themselves. Seniors will throw their hats into the ring and be elected into “office” by their fellow classmates, using the same voting machines as are used in local elections.

The program is sponsored by the Murray Lions Club, with cooperation and assistance by the Murray State University Student Government Association, City of Murray, Calloway County Government, CCHS and MHS. According to a release provided by Terri Long, Senior Student Government Day coordinator, the aim of the program is to “provide a real-life voting experience for high school seniors, acquaint them with city and county governments and encourage them to become active members in the government processes or in helping their community through community service.”

The process begins on Tuesday, Feb. 8, for MHS and Thursday, Feb. 10, for CCHS, when voting machines provided by Ray Coursey Jr., County Clerk, are set up in the school. Job options include everything from county Judge-Executive or Magistrate to city Mayor or Police Chief. Schools take a rotation of whether their students run for city or county office and this year MHS will run for city positions and CCHS will run for county positions. Next year, they will switch, something Long said is done to help show students a broad range of government.

While the voting is underway, voter registration will take place for seniors old enough to vote in upcoming city, county, state and national elections. Long said Coursey wanted to provide the registration opportunity as a way to recruit young voters.

“He was finding a lot of young voters weren’t signing up under normal conditions and so he thought this would be another way to target them and get them to be involved citizens … to pull them in early,” Long said.

Coursey said his office provides voter registration cards to the schools year-round, but especially tries to push registration during the mock election. He said even if a student is currently 17 they can register as long as they will be 18 by the November election.

“It’s a good thing all the way around,” he said. “They also get to familiarize themselves with the voting equipment by getting in the booth and casting their vote. It takes away some of the intimidation factor of election day. It’s a really helpful project.”

Students will use the e-slate machines currently used in local elections. The machines are handicap-accessible and will continue to be used at voting precincts when the new paper scan system is hopefully introduced in May.

Once the students are elected, the actual job shadowing will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 16. The students will meet at First United Methodist Church that morning to meet their assignment and then spend the morning with them. The group will then meet on campus at MSU for a luncheon with an address by Bonnie Higginson, MSU Provost, Kirby O’Donoghue, MSU SGA president and Tim Todd, Dean of Business at MSU. The goal of the luncheon is to show students how they can not only be involved in local government but also in student government as soon as they get to college.

“Jeanie Morgan, the SGA sponsor, is very proactive in trying to get students to realize that once they hit campus there are places they can go to be active in student government and have a voice,” Long said.

At the luncheon, Morgan said SGA representatives will tell seniors about various involvement opportunities on campus, such as Freshman Council and Freshman Senator programs. The SGA itself is modeled after government, to give students even more experience in how the process works, and adheres strictly to campaign and election rules. Morgan said she likes giving the seniors a chance to see how the voting and government process works, and hopes it provides a spark of interest.

“Hopefully this experience helps them get more interested and involved,” she said.

This is the fifth year for the Lions Club to be involved in the program, and Long said it has evolved over the years as local officials have gotten more on board with the idea.

Something new this year will be a mock City Council meeting that students will get to experience at City Hall.

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