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Wednesday, April 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Effort to register high-school-age voters underway in Spokane

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 16, 2020

Kate Telis, left, of the League of Women Voters, talks Thursday with Dimitri McDonald, right, about registering to vote at a table set up in the entryway of Lewis and Clark High School. The nonpartisan group is visiting local high schools and offering voter registration to young people. Though they must be 18 to vote, those under 18 can sign up for delayed registration that will make them eligible on their 18th birthdays. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Kate Telis, left, of the League of Women Voters, talks Thursday with Dimitri McDonald, right, about registering to vote at a table set up in the entryway of Lewis and Clark High School. The nonpartisan group is visiting local high schools and offering voter registration to young people. Though they must be 18 to vote, those under 18 can sign up for delayed registration that will make them eligible on their 18th birthdays. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

At half past 11 on Thursday morning, everyone in the main hallway of Lewis and Clark High School was looking expectantly toward the future.

For most, that included a quick lunch, afternoon classes and the Rubber Chicken rivalry that night at the Arena.

Many, like junior Braden Albertini, wore T-shirts that proclaimed to “Free Chuck” from the clutches of rival Ferris.

But as he passed by the League of Women Voters table, the 17-year-old stopped to fill out a voter’s registration form and show that school spirit and civic pride aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Actually it’s way more important than Rubber Chicken,” said Albertini, who will turn 18 on July 20. “People in government are deciding what they’re going to do for you, and I think that having a say in that is really important.”

“I’ve been looking forward to vote since as long as I can remember,” Albertini said.

The League has been doing this for even longer – almost a century in Spokane. On Thursday, they were at it again at area high schools, beckoning students as young as 16 to register for their future.

Dozens of students did so.

Larke Schaff, who won’t turn 18 until the week after the November election, picked up a form anyway, along with a League membership.

“I’m really interested in this,” Schaff said.

The occasion was Temperance and Good Citizenship Day, which is celebrated only in Washington.

A state law enacted in 1923 requires students learn about civic duty and voting, and that they get the opportunity to register to vote.

By all accounts, Spokane has done it better than most. In 2018, the 3rd Legislative District, which includes most of the city, experienced the largest increase of younger voters in the state.

Since May 2018, Spokane League members have presented to 3,476 seniors in 142 classes, registering 1,258 students in Spokane Public Schools.

They presented to all five comprehensive high schools, plus the Community School and the On Track Academy.

The nonpartisan presentations included personal experiences in voting, the importance of voting and the struggles of some groups in securing voting rights.

This year, that effort comes a century after the 1920 presidential election, the first in which women were allowed to vote following passage of the 19th Amendment.

Thursday’s event puts an exclamation point on the League’s recent efforts. During November and December of last year, 17 League members presented to 1,492 students in 51 classes in Spokane Public Schools and registered 504 students to vote.

Starting later this year, high school social studies, civics and history teachers will coordinate in-class events in which 16- and 17-year-old students can enroll as future voters, which will add them automatically to the voter registration database on their 18th birthdays.

Members finished their last “voting is important” presentation to seniors right before the students’ holiday break, on Dec. 20 at Shadle Park High School.

“This is huge, but getting them to vote is absolutely crucial,” said Lunell Haught of Spokane, the state president of the League.

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