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Ready to participate

September 25, 2018

GREENWICH — The numbers weren’t staggering, but volunteers registering voters at Greenwich High School Tuesday said the effort was worth it.

“By the numbers we may not be successful, but we’re excited to be generating awareness,” volunteer Cathy Steel said.

A dozen Greenwich High students became registered voters through a drive run by the League of Women Voters. But league members said their purpose for being at the school was also to inspire those still too young to vote this election cycle.

Sept. 25 has been deemed National Voter Registration Day since 2012. The Greenwich league got on board last year, collecting 20 registration forms from drives at Neighbor to Neighbor, the Boys and Girls Club and the YWCA, Steel said.

In 2017, A GHS civics class registered students, but volunteers from the league took over this year.

“It’s great that Greenwich High School is open to having us here,” volunteer Barbara Kavanagh said. “It’s another part of enriching students’ lives.”

The volunteers manned a booth in the middle of the student center, and walked among the senior tables every 30 minutes to drum up interest, which resulted in a slow trickle of students. Some already had registered when they received their driver’s licenses, while many others will not turn 18 until after the election.

Senior Allesia Martinoli filled out a form during lunch. Social issues, including LGBT rights, gun control, animal rights and global warming, motivate her to become informed about the political positions of different candidates, she said, and will similarly motivate her to get to the polls on Election Day.

“Everything is becoming polarized, and we need to research a lot about candidates,” she said.

She and many of her peers were “shocked” when they learned in their civics class, a required semester-long class, that many people abstain from voting, she said.

Some only care about presidential elections, when state elections are equally important, she added.

She cited affirmative action in college admissions as a political issue she and her peers discuss often, saying minority students benefit from it directly, but not all students see it that way.

“They don’t realize some people need help,” she said.

Martinoli later returned to pick up a registration form for her mother.

“When you incorporate awareness, you don’t know whose life you’re touching,” Kavanagh said as the senior walked away.

Senior Morgan Perna turns 18 next month, and recently began weighing how she would vote on abortion rights.

She and Martinoli both plan to remain independent, for now.

“I have views on both sides,” Perna said. “I’d love to keep my own views.”

Steel had to turn away a few students who turn 18 on or just after Election Day, who wondered if the state makes special provisions for those who barely miss the cut-off day. These students will have another chance to register in June, when volunteers return to GHS before graduation.

The league’s presence was important for spreading awareness, said Lucy Arecco, the administrator of both Bella House and the social studies program.

“Even if you can’t register today, at least you’ll think about it,” she said.

Social media has changed how and when students get involved in politics, she said.

“There’s always been a feeling that voting doesn’t have much of an impact,” she said. “So much of activism is promoted by social media, they see more of a direct impact of marches and walkouts, which spread like wildfire.”

Arecco emphasizes to her students that being politically active means keeping up with current events and being able to form and defend opinions as much as it does voting and marching.

Students need to understand that action in Washington, D.C., affects their daily lives, Arecco said.

“There’s the perception that the everyday person is isolated from government and politics,” she said. “I want kids to understand what politicians decide does impact them.”

jo.kroeker@hearstmediact.com

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