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District staff should get out the vote

Posted: September 5, 2013 5:56 p.m.
Updated: September 6, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I really applaud the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees for taking the initiative to get its school faculty and staff registered to vote and informed about the issues affecting public K-12 education.

It’s hard to believe that school teachers and various other district personnel aren’t exercising their right to vote while educating and interacting with future generations. Obviously, teachers probably don’t talk about their voting practices or political affiliations to the children in their classroom, but it’s a shame that they are educating children without voicing their opinion on how the government affects their classroom.

School board members have volunteered to visit every school in the district, the district office and with maintenance and IT personnel to get them registered to vote. These aren’t the latest numbers, but as far as I could find by press time, in 2006, 65,000 teachers were eligible to vote in South Carolina. Of that 65,000, 20,000 didn’t even register. Of the 45,000 that did register, only 30,000 voted.

Voting rights are hard-fought for many groups in this country; using them is a great way to use your voice to solicit change. Now I think it’s hard for anyone to say that they don’t care who you vote for or what you vote for, but the numbers are so discouraging across the board, that people just want you to utilize your right.

In South Carolina, the state election commission reported that there were 2.87 million registered voters during the 2012 election season, but only 1.98 million people actually voted; that’s a 68 percent voter turnout. That’s an “F,” by most standards. Add that those numbers to the number of people who are eligible, but don’t register and that percentage goes up.

During the last presidential election, I had a friend who posted a status on Facebook that explained how not voting was using your voice when you didn’t think any of the candidates were worthy. I don’t normally comment on people’s Facebook statuses, but I couldn’t ignore this one. Honestly, it made me mad. If you look at the numbers, there are enough people “using their voice” by not voting. Not voting isn’t using your voice, it’s staying silent when it’s time to speak up. Some people don’t even taken the time to register! It takes like three minutes, tops. I did it at Winthrop’s convocation when I was 18 while I was on my way to get one of Winthrop’s infamous barbecue sandwiches. There is no excuse -- especially not for teachers. I can’t remember if anyone came to talk to my graduating high school class about registering to vote, but I seriously think that in order to get your high school diploma you should be required to register. It should be a college requirement too, so that those who aren’t eligible at the end of their high school career won’t slip through the cracks.

You don’t have to a degree in political science to be informed. I know I work for a newspaper, but you can’t just rely on one third party source to tell you all the facts. You have to do your own research, talk to people and make your own informed decisions. Obviously, everyone will have their own interests and you have to respect that. God gave you a brain; use it to the best of your ability to get informed about what the candidates stand for and their voting history.

To register to vote in South Carolina all you need is a driver’s license or state issued ID. IDs are required for those 18 years and up who do not have a driver’s license. If you go to www.scvotes.org, you can register to vote online -- online! -- or you can download a form and send it by mail or fax, or you can scan it and email it to your local voter registration office. You can also go to the local voter registration office or the Department of Motor Vehicles to register in person.

If you are registered to vote and don’t know who your representatives are, you can go back to scvotes.gov, enter your name, birthday and county, and the website will give you your voting districts and your local voting place. You can go to SCstatehouse.org, click on “Find Your Legislators” on the left hand side of the screen, enter your address and viola: a list all of your legislators. To find out about school board or county council members just type in the county you live in and search your county and school district website.

One thing I’ve learned is that our representatives aren’t aliens, even though many of them act like it sometimes. As I don’t currently live in Kershaw County, where I work, next voting season, I’m going to challenge myself and campaign for a candidate where I live. I know that’s normally a no-no in reporter world -- I remember one of my professor’s saying in one of my classes to not even put a bumper sticker on our car supporting anything -- but it’s too important. There just too much at stake.

Write a letter, send an email and for you own sake vote; every voice counts.

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