About 300 students who were eligible to vote this year were encouraged to register during a recent registration drive at a local high school.
Students in the senior class at Lehman High School were urged to sign up and exercise their right to vote during Student Voter Registration Day on Friday, March 16.
The registration drive was held in conjunction with the Latino Leadership Institute and Councilman James Vacca, and was part of a larger city-wide voter registration initiative of March 16 that sought to sign up 17- and 18-year-olds in schools across the five boroughs.
This is the second year that students at the high school, located on the Lehman campus, were involved in the effort, said James Rodriguez, a retired teacher who coordinates enrichments events at Lehman High School.
The most common barrier to voting among Lehman students usually center on language, said Rodriguez, adding that many students speak English as a second language.
“The obstacles are basically access and awareness, and within that would be language,” he said, adding that one of the overall goals of the state curriculum is to educate young people about the importance of their participation in the democratic process.
For the second consecutive year, Vacca has spoken to the students about the importance of voting and about civics in general during the drive.
Zuaira Khan, a student who is Vacca’s appointee to the NYC Youth Council, also spoke during the assembly held in the school’s auditorium, said Rodriguez.
In a year when students could potentially vote in the November presidential election, explained Vacca, it could be an especially good time to get 17-year-olds involved in government and civics.
If they turn 18-years-old on or before Election Day, and they register, they can vote for president, and the same holds true for the upcoming congressional primary in June and a primary for New York State elected officials in September.
He hopes that these youngsters get interested now.
“Registration is only half the battle, we have got to get our young people involved in government and civics and get them to vote,” said Vacca. “They are our future.”
In addition to the upcoming presidential election, students should also be encouraged to learn more about their local representatives in the U.S. Congress, NYS Senate, the NYS Assembly and NYC City Council, said the councilman.
“I think many people don’t realize that their votes are also very important in local races too,” said Vacca.
In addition to stressing voting on the local level, the councilman said that he cited some classic examples of times when a handful of votes made a difference, including in the 2000 presidential race where 537 votes in Florida made the difference out of millions of votes cast.
Last year’s Student Voter Registration Day registered over 2,000 students to vote citywide.