As Election Day 2022 nears, The ReMarker student newspaper explored the recent efforts of the Voter Registration Drive. Organized by parent volunteers, the Drive seeks to encourage voter turnout and provide help in registering anyone of legal age to vote. Student journalists Grayson Redmond ’24 and Hilton Sampson ’25 spoke with several students, parents and faculty members about this important initiative.
What kind of work has gone into the Voter Registration Drive so far?
Dr. John Perryman, Director of Civic Responsibility:
We’ve done this somewhat sporadically in the past, but last spring Admissions Officer Korey Mack ’00, Dr. Moyo Ajaja (mother of junior Temi Balogun), Mrs. Aarthi Ram (mother of senior Akash Raghunathan) and I met with a goal of making this a more intentional process. We’ve had a booth in the Commons on Tuesdays leading up to the election and we had a speaker from March to the Polls, a nonpartisan nonprofit, speak with the seniors.
Aarthi Ram: The St. Mark’s Parents Association allocates a budget and appoints Voter Registration (VR) Chairs to register Seniors who will be 18 years of age in time to vote in the November or May elections. They prepare the schedule, and parent volunteers sign up to hand out VR cards. The St. Mark’s communications office also designs innovative displays that highlight the importance of voting. Last year, they created the popular blue and gold VOTE poster made entirely of St. Mark’s pins. Recently, our first-ever voting mascot, a 6-ft tall mannequin called “Mark” made an appearance in the Commons.
Why is it important for young people especially to get out and vote?
Admissions Officer Korey Mack ’00: There’s this misconception among young people that somehow their age, or lack thereof, disqualifies them from being involved substantively in the political process, and I think that’s nonsense. But I also was a young person in years gone by, so I understand why a young person might feel like that. Over the weekend, I saw a news story about a lady named Opal Lee from Fort Worth. She’s been dubbed the grandmother of Juneteenth having walked all the way from Tarrant County to DC to make Juneteenth a national holiday and to raise awareness about voting. She said that you’re never too young or too old to make a difference in this world. I think that is the reason why young people are uniquely and powerfully positioned to make the most difference in the political process, because they have bright ideas and an unconditioned view of the future.
JP: We are fortunate to live in a republic where citizens get to decide who our leaders are going to be, what our policies are going to be, etc. In a monarchy or other forms of government when you are a subject and not a citizen, you don't have that opportunity. We should not take for granted this ability to shape the agenda and to decide the directions we’re going to go in. I tell my students repeatedly that they have a job as a citizen to be informed, to read from a variety of news sources across the spectrum and to try to learn as much about policies and candidates as you can. That is your job from now on, now that you’re about ready to vote, for the rest of your life.
Do you think society does a good enough job in encouraging this civic responsibility among young people?
AR: I came across a Tufts University study that concluded that while youth voter turnout has increased across the country, the turnout among newly eligible voters is still low. Even though there are many youth-focused voting organizations today, I think society has more work to do to engage younger voters, and not just in the more visible federal elections but also in those less talked-about, yet more impactful local elections.
JP: In general, no. Dallas has had incredibly low turnout for mayoral elections, city council meetings and other things of that nature. I totally understand we all can get occasionally frustrated with these processes, but we need to realize how fortunate we are that we do have the opportunity to vote.
How can we better encourage them to embrace these responsibilities?
AR: One way is to help young people become informed voters. You’re more likely to vote if you’re better prepared. Am I eligible to vote? Am I registered to vote? Who or what’s on the ballot? Where’s my polling place? Thankfully these are all questions that can be answered by a click of a button. Another way is for young people to be proactive and get involved. Learn what happens in an election first-hand. For example, Texas high schoolers who are 16 or older can serve as elections clerks at a polling place during Early Voting or on Election Day. Voting is a habit and the earlier in life we adopt it, more likely we’ll stick with it. Once you register and vote for the first time, it becomes much easier and maybe even routine.
KM: I don't think it’s society’s job; I think it rests solely on the individual. But individuals don’t exist in a vault or a vacuum. They exist in the greater society, so I can’t just parse this out and say it's the individual's responsibility. But, the individual is who gets to vote. It’s a uniquely individual exercise. I think we can do more to share, maybe not who or what we’re voting for, but that voting is important as individuals. It’s so important that I’m going to encourage all the individuals in my sphere of influence and my social networks to exercise that power. The higher the level of engagement that we all individually take, the better off our society will be.
JP: I would hope things like the [Voter Registration] Drive were going on at all schools. Also, maybe parents can make sure they’re occasionally sharing those sorts of conversations with their kids about how important it is so that when their child is of age they’ll get to the polls and know that process.