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Checklist supervisors visit Londonderry students to register voters, teach civic engagement

Union Leader Correspondent

February 21. 2018 10:39PM
Heather Ricker, a senior at Londonderry High School, registers to vote Monday during an open period with Kristen Grages, one of the town's supervisors of the checklist. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

LONDONDERRY — Nineteen first-time voters are ready to cast their ballots next month after supervisors of the checklist visited Londonderry High School on Monday to register 18-year-olds and answer any election-related questions from students.

But just as important as voting, educators say that by meeting with checklist supervisors the students are able to make a connection between classroom instruction about civic duty and actual community engagement.

Kristen Grages, in her first six-year term as a checklist supervisor, visited several LHS civics classes to meet with students.

From 10:43 a.m. to 1:08 p.m. Monday, she sat in the school’s cafeteria behind a table registering 18-year-olds before the March 12 town election.

“We try to encourage everyone who is eligible to vote to register,” said Grages.

“Personal connections, no matter what we’re talking about, make a difference,” said social studies and civics teacher Suzanne Johnson. “If we’re talking about getting involved, registering to vote, having a warm human being coming in to talk about it is going to last longer in their heads than just me.”

While supervisors routinely go out into the community to register voters at assisted living facilities, Grages said this is likely the first time they have visited the high school.

“We thought this is another example of a community of potential voters who might not have the opportunity to register to vote,” she said. “I’m really impressed with how engaged all the students have been.”

The conversation stemmed around issues impacting younger voters — proposed changes to New Hampshire’s election laws and where Granite Staters may vote if they depart for college in another state.

Grages set up informational boards explaining the registration process and what teens need to add their name to the voter checklist. A majority came with a driver’s license and passport, some signed a qualified voter affidavit to immediately add them to the roll.

Eighteen-year-old Abhy Patel, a senior, heard about the sign-up period and decided to bring in his identification to get on the voter checklist.

“It’s a great opportunity. Now I don’t have to bother spending the extra time (to register). I can just come here during an off period and get it done,” he said.

Fellow senior and first-time voter Heather Ricker said she is excited to have a say in the future of Londonderry.

“I really do feel that voting is not a right, but a duty,” she said. “I think everybody should vote, and it bothers me when people don’t vote and then they complain about politics.”

Upon hearing of the 19 new voters, Johnson said, “That’s awesome.”

“We want them to be engaged. That’s the first step,” she added.

Grages also reviewed the difference in participation numbers from town meeting as opposed to presidential elections.

Londonderry’s turnout for the 2016 presidential primary and general election was 54.2 and 77.8 percent respectively; the town election in 2016 barely topped 10 percent, while last year’s town meeting vote saw only 13.7 percent of active voters casting ballots.

“Part of what we talked about was the smaller elections, particularly the town ones, affect their day-to-day life much more,” Grages said. “The kids seem to get it.”

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