We applaud youth voter registration drives at Derry, Mt. Pleasant, Fox Chapel
W e applaud the exemplary efforts that have been made by students in three of the region's school districts to register their peers to vote.
The push comes as part of a nationwide school safety movement sparked by the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February.
Students attending the three school districts in the region recognized this month are Derry Area, Mt. Pleasant Area and Fox Chapel Area.
They were given the Governor's Civic Engagement Award. It's a joint initiative of the Pennsylvania Departments of Education and State and Inspire U.S., which is a nonpartisan organization that offers resources and training to young people interested in getting peers involved in the electoral process.
The award recognizes schools that get high percentages of eligible students registered to vote.
All three school districts managed to register at least 85 percent of eligible students.
Voters between 18 and 24 years old account for about 8 percent of Pennsylvania's more than 8 million registered voters, according to state figures.
There are close to 16,400 voters younger than 24 in Westmoreland County, which has about 245,000 registered voters. That's compared to just over 50,000 voters between the ages of 55 and 64 — the county's largest segment of registered voters, according to state data.
Some on the right have criticized the nationwide effort to register the youngest eligible voters as an orchestrated effort by liberal adult groups who favor varying gun control efforts.
Who cares if, in some cases, it's true?
We were a bit surprised — and such groups would be, too — by the wide range of opinions that students expressed regarding school safety and gun control at separate student forums that the Tribune-Review and its parent company, Trib Total Media, held earlier this year at Westmoreland County Community College and Penn State New Kensington.
Aside from agreeing that it's a bad idea to arm teachers, the breadth of opinions was about as varied as older voters.
So a young, newly registered voter doesn't necessarily equate to a newly registered liberal like it used to mean.
“I just think things currently are changing from the norm,” said Lainey Kasian, a senior at Fox Chapel Area High School who helped coordinate voter registration. “Whether people think it's a good thing or a bad thing, I think it's something that everyone should be aware of.”
Registration drive organizers like Chelsea Bisi, a Derry Area senior, say they hope students will become more involved in the political process.
If older adults are serious about encouraging civic engagement of newly minted adults, then we all should be behind the effort.