Philadelphia marks Voter Registration Day with campaign aimed at city’s youth

Paul Robeson High School juniors and seniors learn how to use a voting machine. Eligible students were offered a chance to register to vote during their Voter Registration Day event. (Darryl Murphy/WHYY)

Paul Robeson High School juniors and seniors learn how to use a voting machine. Eligible students were offered a chance to register to vote during their Voter Registration Day event. (Darryl Murphy/WHYY)

As the 2018 midterm election approaches, Philadelphia leaders are trying to encourage more young people to vote.

City officials visited local high schools to talk to students about the importance of voting, and register eligible students.

Lisa Deeley, chair of the City Commissioners who administer elections in Philadelphia, began the visits in 2016 to address low turnout among youths.

“They have the biggest stake in our future so we want to get them involved,” she said.

Craig Mclaurin, a voting machine technician, shows Paul Robeson High School students how to use a voting machine during their Voter Registration Day event. (Darryl Murphy/WHYY)

But historically, voting hasn’t been a high priority for younger Americans.

One study from the Pew Research Center showed that eligible voters between 18 and 24 had the lowest turnout during every midterm between 1978 and 2014.

“It’s just not important to me right now,” said Jaime Bond, an 18-year-old senior at Paul Robeson High School.

Sanaa Nelson Jordan, 17, also a Robeson senior, said there isn’t enough focused education about the importance of voting in the off-years.

“They make it a big deal when it’s the president,” she said, “but when it’s a little election they don’t say much about it.”

On the other hand, Zaire Barrow, a senior at Robeson, plans to vote this November. He says he thinks it could make a difference.

“If these candidates and senators, if I voted for them,” he said, “I think they would change our community and our businesses and the black community and stuff like that.”

Deeley said she finds students are more informed than they’ve been in past years.

“They’re finding out and hearing things about elections that possibly they didn’t hear three years ago.”

The midterm elections will be on November 6.  The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 9.  In Delaware, it’s October 13 and in New Jersey, October 16.

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