TENNERTON – Mya Ramos and Morgan Goodman would like to see a little less talk and a lot more political action.
And the two Buckhannon-Upshur High School seniors clearly weren’t messing around.
By 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24 – National Voter Registration Day – they’d helped more than 80 of their peers get registered to vote.
Mya and Morgan, with the assistance of Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith, were stationed in the library for most of the school day, helping their classmates register to vote for the first time or update their voter registration.
“We just looked, and I think we got 85 registered today,” Mya said. “Three hundred is the total we want to get.”
An online post from the B-UHS Counseling Department spurred Morgan to research programs through which she could assist her peers in registering to vote.
So, Morgan and Mya applied to – and interviewed with – a program called Inspire2Vote, which supports nonpartisan efforts to promote voter registration among high school students, according to its website.
“I thought it would be really cool to get involved in something I was interested in doing, and that’s why I asked Mya if she could help me,” Morgan said.
Mya said she was all for it.
“Morgan introduced it to me back in July, and we both applied and interviewed for it through Inspire2Vote U.S. and then we got accepted to that, and then we had to transfer to the state version of that, so this program we’re doing here right now is through the (West Virginia) Secretary of State’s Office,” she said.
Morgan said she and her peers have a civic responsibility.
“We’re the next generation of voters,” she explained. “We’re also looked at to be advocates for an array of issues we have going on right now, and a good first step to doing that is to register to vote.”
“The statistics for our age group and voting are not good,” Mya chimed in. “We don’t show up to vote. West Virginia is ranked 44th in the country for voter turnout and one-fourth of the people who are registered to vote who are our age – only one-fourth of them actually do vote … so, we’re kind of informing them, like, ‘hey, you can vote, and maybe you should.’”
Morgan said when she and Mya delivered presentations in senior history classes, the two were careful to emphasize that every vote counts and “it does matter.”
Mya pointed to the 1960 General Election, in which John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by one of the slimmest margins in American history.
“If you look at Kennedy, when he won in 1960, he only won by several thousand votes, and it’s the whole story of, if one person from every polling place had voted the other way, he wouldn’t have won,” she said, “so it kind of boosts you up, and it makes you feel like, ‘hey, my vote goes to something.’”
According to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, on Nov. 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president in one of the closest elections in U.S. history with a margin of just 118,550 out the approximate 69 million votes that were cast.
So, what issues do Mya and Morgan think are of particular concern to their generation?
“I feel like climate’s a huge one, especially this week,” Mya said.
Morgan mentioned gun control and abortion.
“There’s just so much – women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, I’ve heard a lot about those issues,” she said.
Mya said the two students’ main goal is to translate political opinions into political action.
“We know that everyone has some kind of opinion,” she said. “They might not think that it’s that big of a deal, but our goal is [to help other students] do something with that opinion, turning that opinion into political action, which you definitely can do, and we’re trying to make that easier by doing this.”
Smith said not only is Sept. 24 National Voter Registration Day, the entire month of September is Voter Registration Month. Her office always sets up a satellite location at the high school, she said, but it’s typically closer to a primary or general election.
Smith said many high school students aren’t aware that they can register to vote if they’re age 17, so long as they will turn 18 years old prior to the next general election, which is Nov. 3, 2020.
“I think brings to light the fact that young adults need to be involved, and some of them have no idea you can register to vote at age 17 if you’re going to be 18 by the next general election,” she said. “I think it’s important to get that word out there, and every voice counts. Registering people to vote is important but getting people out to vote is the bigger hurdle actually.”
You can register to vote online through the Secretary of State’s office here.