Students register to vote during LWV event

MANISTEE — The importance for a person to express their feelings by voting has probably never been greater in the history of this country.

The Manistee League of Women Voters held a voter registration day for high school seniors. They also showed the students the movie “Iron Jawed Angels” about the women’s suffrage movement. After watching the movie the students registered to vote with Manistee County Clerk Jill Nowak (seated right) and chief deputy clerk Lindsey Marquardt (seated left).

It is one of the main reasons that the Manistee County League of Women Voters has been holding a voter registration day for high school seniors for the past four years. On Thursday morning, students from Onekama Consolidated Schools, Manistee Catholic Central, Manistee High School, Brethren High School and CASMAN Academy were given the opportunity to register to vote with the county clerk’s office at the Vogue Theatre.

League of Women Voters president Nancy Behring told the students this annual event was sponsored by the Mika Meyers PLC Law Firm and Boyer Insurance Agency. Prior to registering to vote the students viewed the 2004 movie “Iron Jawed Angels” starring Hilary Swank and Anjelica Huston which details women’s fight to earn the right to vote.

“It shows them using peaceful, non-violent activities and putting their lives at risk to help give women the right to vote,” said Behring. “So many of us today have the right to vote because of that, and it is why it is important for them to see this movie.”

Behring said voting is an important step and one that the students will be able to utilize for the rest of their lives.

“After you become registered today you will get your voter registration card in about two weeks,” said Behring. “Then you will have the privilege and responsibility of being an informed voter and using your vote as a voice in our democracy. Your vote is the only way we can make decisions in our democracy.”

“Our mission is to educate voters and work for fair and accessible elections for all citizens,” Behring told the students. “One of the things we do is register voters and that is what we are doing today. It’s hard to think now, that women could not vote before 1920.”

League of Women Voters member Jan Sapak helped organized the event, she said they feel the local program is extremely important to teach students about the importance of voting.

“It’s a wonderful program and the students and teachers are really excited about it,” said Sapak. “We are just happy to get the students registered. The teachers have told us it is like a rite of passage for the students at this time of year to adulthood. You can tell by their response to the movie and out here registering that they take it very seriously.”

Sapak said it also carries an important lesson.

“It really is a life lesson for them and the movie just kind of solidifies the idea how difficult it was especially for women, to get the right to vote,” said Sapak. “Once they see that, it kind of makes them think that if someone worked this hard to get the right to vote, then I should really vote. So getting the right to see this movie is an extra perk for the program.”

Following the movie, students filled out voter registration forms which they presented to Manistee County Clerk Jill Nowak and chief deputy county clerk Lindsey Marquardt for verification.

“It helps the students get involved at an early age and hopefully that continues on through their lifetime,” said Nowak. “If they go away to college they can get an absentee ballot  by registering with us in person. By checking their identification it satisfies the state requirement for identification so they will not have to do that the first time if they vote with an absentee ballot.”

Nowak said the student response to the program has been outstanding over the past four years.

We get about 90 or so kids who register at this event and that is great,” she said.

Manistee High School teacher Sam Joseph said school officials are very appreciative of what the League of Women Voters do with this program.

“It is just what the kids need,” said Joseph. “A lot of people think the youth of today are apathetic and just focused on their cell phones. This encourages that you are no longer a high school student and you are an American citizen and with that comes great responsibility and this if the first step in that process.”

Joseph said the entire program Thursday morning was an excellent lesson for the students.

“When you watch this movie where these women are literally ready to give up their lives for something they believe in. So my question to the students is, what are they willing to fight for and sacrifice? If your religion and history tell you anything, it is great cost or sacrifice is sometimes needed for things to move forward and getting registered to vote is the perfect first step.”

Onekama Consolidated Schools students Maggie Domres and Chloe Wisniski felt it was a great program and both said they can’t wait to get their first chance to vote. They also said they plan to follow the candidates and issues more closely in the future.

“It was nice to learn more what the women’s suffrage was about and learn why it was important for us to vote,” said Domres.

“I thought it was really amazing to see what went through to just to get to vote,” said Wisniski.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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