Kingston schools expand student voter registration program

Students in the Kingston City School District as young as 16 may soon have the option of pre-registering to vote at Kingston High School, thanks to a new school board policy.

“The Board of Education believes that getting young people involved in the election process helps to secure the future of democracy by preparing young people to be educated, engaged voters who have formed the habit of voting and contributing to civic life early,” reads policy number 5605, which was introduced at Nov. 20’s school board meeting and is expected to be adopted during a meeting set for Wednesday, December 11. The policy is the result of state election law 5-507, which goes into effect on Jan. 1. 

“Local boards of education are required to adopt policies to promote student voter registration and pre-registration,” reads the state law. “These policies may include collaboration with county boards of elections to conduct voter registration and pre-registration in high schools. Completion and submission of voter registration or pre-registration forms shall not be a course requirement or graded assignment for students.”

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In Kingston, students who are at least 16 years old and otherwise qualified to vote, but will not be 18 by the next election, will be offered the opportunity to complete and submit registration materials at the opening of each academic year. There is no pre-registration requirement, and students who choose not to participate will not be penalized.

According to Trustee Suzanne Jordan, who serves on the school board’s Policy Committee, the district is waiting for the state to complete the pre-registration forms for 16-year-old students; 17-year-old students are already covered. Jordan added that the state law and new district policy align with Kingston’s general practice of educating students about the election process and making registering to vote accessible.

“Our district has a long standing tradition of voter registration in the high school,” she said, adding that it is made possible through courses like social studies, and with the assistance of student government. “Those [efforts] will continue and it will just be augmented by the 16-year-old registration when that comes available. We’ve even talked about if we have to have it available in middle school.”

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