Saturday, September 09, 2000

Lebanon High to promote youth voting

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DAYTON, Ohio — Lebanon High School students will act as hosts this October for a first-ever videoconferencing and Internet forum on youth voting, coordinated through the secretary of state's office.

        About 15 school districts will participate at five sites throughout the state for the Oct. 3 conference. Lebanon High School students will host the forum from Sinclair Community College in Dayton, said Jenny Moormeier, director of technology and secondary curriculum for Lebanon schools.

        The forum, dubbed the “Change Our World — Vote” initiative, is aimed at raising the awareness of Ohio's youth about political issues and gearing them up to register to vote, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

        “Number one, we want to gets kids involved in the political world,” said Jay Meno, a government teacher at Lebanon High School. “And the first step toward active citizenship is voting.”

        Since 1972, when the voting age was lowered to 18, voter participation among 18- to 24-year-olds nationwide has dropped nearly 20 percentage points, according to the New Millennium Project sponsored by the National Association of Secretaries of State. Only 32 percent of people in that age group went to the polls in 1996; 49 percent of everyone eligible voted.

        “It is crucial that we start listening to our young people and begin to turn entrenched voter apathy into voter participation on every level of civic life,” said Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell in a statement on the forum.

        The conference, reminiscent of a town hall meeting, will allow youths to ask the questions they see as important in the upcoming elections. Mr. Blackwell is scheduled to speak and address questions during the 2 1/2-hour forum, Ms. Moormeier said.

        Through videoconferencing, the five sites will be able to communicate with and see one another. Lebanon High School students will moderate.

        Details are still being worked out, but organizers hope to invite several state legislators and also people of national prominence in the presidential election, Mr. Meno said.

        The forum will be videotaped and then distributed to local Public Broadcasting System stations, Ms. Moormeier said. Forum organizers felt the technological theme of the conference would be a smart way to engage young people growing up in an era of increased distance learning and online voting, Ms. Moormeier said.

        “We want to make sure kids know how to participate in the democratic process of their future,” she said.

        Several other Greater Cincinnati schools are likely to participate, Mr. Meno said.


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