Town Hall Meeting Held At Highland Shed Light On Some Important Issues

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Town Hall Meeting Held At Highland Shed Light On Some Important Issues

Representative Joel Briscoe of House District 25 answers a question during a Legislative Town Hall meeting that was held in the library.

Representative Joel Briscoe of House District 25 answers a question during a Legislative Town Hall meeting that was held in the library.

Noah Herridge

Representative Joel Briscoe of House District 25 answers a question during a Legislative Town Hall meeting that was held in the library.

Noah Herridge

Noah Herridge

Representative Joel Briscoe of House District 25 answers a question during a Legislative Town Hall meeting that was held in the library.

Grace Ojewia, News Editor

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A legislative town hall meeting held in the library on Thursday evening November 29th brought many community members together. Several legislative members who represent some of the districts that the Highland community is a part of were there to bring the perspective of those who directly work with public policy. Representative Joel Briscoe of House District 25 and Senator Gene Davis were among the legisative members present. Topics ranging from special needs educators and funding were discussed. Members of the community got an opportunity to ask the panelist some of their questions.

Even though no more than half of the whole population has ever voted in a Presidential election, voter turnout for midterm and general elections has been decreasing overall since the late 60s to early 70s.

Statistics and data have shown that from 1972 to 2016, citizens aged 18 to 29 turn out at a rate 15 to 20 percent lower than citizens 30 years and older. One organization is trying to change those numbers and get more people involved in the democratic process. Voterise is a non-profit and non-partisan group that works to reach out to young people and increase voter registration and turnout for eligible voters aged 18 to 29.

They use the platform of the organization Rock The Vote to try and reach out to kids younger than 18 to get them involved in the political process. Rock The Vote has done a successful job of getting more college aged people to register and actually vote. However, there was not as much of a focus on those who are just entering adulthood and still in high school.

Voterise is hoping to change that. One new initiative they hope to make happen is set up an event as part of graduation preparations that would register new grads and try to encourage them to vote. New data has suggested that people who register to vote through an organization are much more likely to actually get out and vote than those who register on their own.

They are also working to spread information on voter registration like the fact that teens can register by texting Voterise as well as doing it online. Information about pre-registration for students who are 16 and older is also trying to be spread to high school students.

There are hopes to also do more events during events like Day of Service at the end of the year and to even integrate the program into the curriculum of some social studies classes. One proposal was that if students are required to take the civils exam in order to graduate, why not help them get involved in the democratic process through voting? There is also legislation that is awaiting approval that would allow 17 year olds who will be 18 by the general election to vote in the primaries. If this does pass it could help get more students involved.

Deirdre Straight is a parent of Highland students who has helped bring Voterise and Highland together. “Kids are affected by the decisions adults make,” parent of Highland students Deirdre Straight said. “It would be nice to have more young people, in between that kid and adult age, to participate and have an influence in decisions.”

The integration of Voterise into Salt Lake City School District events and schools has already been approved by the superintendent and school board and has now been approved by the administration and PTA, with the details left to work out.

One particular goal that Voterise is hoping to accomplish is to get more girls and women registered and voting by 2020 in the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

With young people being as vocal as ever on many different issues, efforts to get them to be politically active are changing the status quo.

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