vote

Walla Walla High School senior and National Honor Society member Regan Braman registers students to vote at a recent Blue Devils soccer game. The Honor Society’s goal is to get all of the school’s 124 students who are or will be old enough to vote in November registered to do so, club adviser Kim Cassetto said.

Lily Berver can’t wait for her birthday.

As many people do, the Walla Walla High School senior is looking forward to turning 18 in April.

Because that will mean Lily is finally old enough to vote. Voting, she said, “is a really cool privilege.”

Along with others, the teen organized Students for the Vote in late spring with the intention of bringing awareness to the importance of voting.

Over the summer, the independent group set up voter registration tables on weekends at Walla Walla Farmers Market and during the Sweet Onion Festival. They also organized a rock-painting event at Pioneer Park that brought people to registration tables set up there.

All in all, about 700 new or lapsed voters, from young to old, were registered with their efforts, Lily said.

Specifically, Students for the Vote was formed to talk to people about Walla Walla Public Schools’ proposed $65.6 million renovation and repair bond, slated for the Nov. 6 ballot.

Generally, however, the effect has been to underline the importance and responsibility of being an informed and active voter, something teens her age are just learning about, Lily said.

Katie Harvey seconds that. At 18, Harvey can vote in November and said she is fully aware of what a social responsibility and “incredible privilege” voting is.

Harvey is part of Students for the Vote and worked voter registration events this summer. But she also belongs to Wa-Hi’s National Honor Society, and its members have been spending this week registering as many of the school’s 124 students who are, or will be, old enough to vote in six weeks.

Adviser Kim Cassetto said NHS club members have been manning desks and tables during lunch periods and after school, plus making presentations to junior and senior classes to teach students about the power of voting.

On Saturday, the community is invited to celebrate the voter-registration drive at “Vote-Squatch,” a concert at Whitman College.

Which, naturally, will have volunteers eager to sign people up to vote.

The school-based club is not allowed by law to discuss the bond vote in their registration efforts, but in any case there is plenty of energy around the local midterm ballot to generate interest, Harvey said.

“It’s pretty important that we are nonpartisan … people assume if you are trying to register people to vote, it’s some sort of political ploy,” she said. “We don’t ask your party.”

Harvey and other Honor Society members have discovered that plenty of student don’t realize they can register by age 171/2 to vote in the next election. Many get excited when they learn they can sign up, she said.

“There’s a smaller group of people who are apathetic. They say they are politically neutral,” she said.

Oct. 8 is the last day to register to vote in Washington state. Cassetto said Oct. 5 will be the last day of student registration at Wa-Hi.

The work of her club members has been heartening to watch, she noted.

The 54 members of the Honor Society eagerly took on the project when Cassetto proposed it, and they gave up their time to make the most impact in the two weeks of the drive, the club adviser added.

“I love that these young people are leading the charge,” Cassetto said.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.

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