It's a standard practice at high schools across the country. A social studies teacher tells kids that they need to register to vote as soon as they turn 18. Some even take it a step further by handing out voter registration paperwork to make sure the kids have access. But as one teacher in Florida found out, that simple act of teaching kids to be good citizens could land you in legal hot water.
Jill Cicciarelli is facing thousands of dollars in fines for daring to start a drive to get her civics students to perform their civic duty. And our forefathers are concurrently spinning in their graves.
The law that Cicciarelli allegedly violated is new -- which explains why she didn't know about it -- and it requires any third party who is registering voters register with the state. They're also required to submit the applications within 48 hours of having them signed.
Way to make it hard for teachers to actually teach! How many groups of teenagers do you know who will all hand in their paperwork on the SAME day so their teacher can easily take one big pile to the voter registrar's office? Yeah, didn't think so.
Passed by Republicans, ostensibly to fight voter fraud, the law is being fought right and left by people who say it will suppress voter participation. I tend to agree. As long as you're telling teachers not to sign up new voters, you're cutting off the lifeblood of a community.
Remember when you were a teenager? When birthdays were still exciting milestones that meant new privileges and new adventures? It's that youthful exuberance that we need to capture to get people signed up to vote. Because once you're registered, you're set. You can vote. And you're more likely to hang in there as a voter again and again.
In a nation where less than half of people 18 to 24 are registered to vote (compared to 73 percent of geriatrics), we need to convince our kids that they need to get their butts in gear. And where better than in a classroom? Teenagers, especially, are often more likely to listen to a teacher than their parents (sigh ... ) when it comes to timely matters. It sounds like Jill Cicciarelli is being screwed for being just the kind of teacher I'd love to have in my kid's classroom: engaging, active, smart.
If laws like these are what it takes to fight voter fraud in adults, there needs to be a clause that separates teachers from the pack. We depend on them to impart lessons on citizenship. How about letting them do their jobs?
Do you think teachers should help kids register to vote?
Image via lowjumpingfrog/Flickr
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