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Proposal offers voters registration at SHS

The Superior School Board on Monday, Dec. 10, will consider a policy facilitating high school voter registration. The policy is similar to one adopted by the Eau Claire School District in September. It states that Superior High School shall offer...

(Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) Senior Allison Avery, left, points to her computer as senior Megan Jaszczak looks on before Kyle Smith’s Senior Social class at Superior High School on Wednesday, Dec.5. Both seniors registered to vote in class.
(Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) Senior Allison Avery, left, points to her computer as senior Megan Jaszczak looks on before Kyle Smith’s Senior Social class at Superior High School on Wednesday, Dec.5. Both seniors registered to vote in class.

The Superior School Board on Monday, Dec. 10, will consider a policy facilitating high school voter registration.

The policy is similar to one adopted by the Eau Claire School District in September. It states that Superior High School shall offer students who will reach age 18 by the time of the next scheduled election the opportunity to register as voters. It would also allow eligible students to be excused from school to be a poll worker or poll observer.

The policy was introduced to the board in October by Vice President Christina Kintop. Offering voter registration fits the state standards for teaching civic engagement, she said. During the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, Dec. 3, she said that a dozen districts in the state have similar policies.

Marc Campbell has been offering his American Government students voter registration every time there's an election since he started teaching 21 years ago.

"It's something I've always done, just because it fits naturally into my subject area," he said.

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Kyle Smith, who teaches Advanced Senior Social, offered the option to his students this fall. He said was prompted to do so following School Board discussion about voter registration in October.

"It fits naturally for our curriculum and I always do have a week of political spectrum right before the election," Smith said.

The teachers said 100 Superior High School students had turned 18 and were eligible to vote in the Nov. 6 midterm election. At least two of them registered in Smith's class.

"I don't know if it was for everyone, but for me it kind of encouraged me to vote because I didn't think I was going to," SHS senior Megan Jaszczak said. "I didn't want to go through the whole process, but it made me want to vote just because the registering was already done. That kind of really helped."

In addition to handing out the form, Smith went over it with students.

"I think since we got to ask questions it was a lot easier," Jaszczak said.

Fellow senior Allison Avery saved time filling out the form at school.

"I was planning on registering that day when I got there, but in class it made it way easier," the 18-year-old said.

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Both teens voted for the first time Nov. 6.

"It felt like the adult version of a scantron test," Avery said. "That's how it felt to me. I mean, you're filling in bubbles and you're hoping you're picking the right ones."

Jaszczak thought she'd feel nervous at the voting booth, but she didn't.

"I didn't really know who I was going to vote for," she said. "Just kind of there, I felt American, I guess."

The students said the registration process was easy and there was no pressure. Smith told them even if they didn't want to vote, filling out the form was good practice for future applications.

"I feel like it's a good option, but it shouldn't be made mandatory at all," Avery said.

Superior City Clerk Terri Kalan said having 18-year-olds pre-register, either online or through initiatives like at SHS, is a great idea.

"We encourage everyone to vote," she said. "If you engage with politics early on, you're probably going to be a lifelong voter. If you start early and you find the importance of it, it becomes a lifelong habit."

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The overall voter turnout in the city Nov. 6 was 77 percent.

"That's a very high turnout," Kalan said. "That's high for even a governor race. Those are usually about 65 percent."

Many of them were young voters.

"I know we had a lot of UWS students," Kalan said. "Especially at WITC and Central Assembly of God, because those are the two polling places for the dorms. They had a very high turnout of voters registering."

Kalan participated in a couple of registration drives at the college to encourage voting.

Having a district policy in place won't change Campbell's curriculum. He plans to offer voter registration again this spring before city and School Board elections take place.

"Actually, your vote means more locally than it probably does statewide versus nationally," Smith said.

"That's what we talk about the second semester, is the kind of immediate impact you have," Campbell said. "A good chance to see start to see how your vote really can make a difference."

Having a policy that encourages SHS to offer voter registration information would, however, back up what the teachers are doing if anyone raised an issue with it.

Although the board voted to move the policy forward to the Dec. 10 meeting, it may need additional tweaking and discussion before a final vote is made. The next election isn't for a while, Kintop said.

"We have nothing but time," she said.

The board meets at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, in the District Administration Building, 3025 Tower Ave.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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