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School board considers student voter registration

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SMITHFIELD — Voter registration for Johnston County high school students may be an option if the Johnston County Board of Education approves it in August.

Johnston County Public Schools Chief of Staff Delores Gill presented a policy draft for information purposes at the June 11 school board meeting. If approved, the voter registration program would be provided in partnership with the Johnston County Board of Elections.

Under state law, every public high school shall make voter registration application forms available to its students and to others who are eligible to vote.

“A local board of education may… designate high school employees to assist in completing the forms. Only employees who volunteer for this duty may be designated by boards of education,” according to N.C. General Statute 163-82.83.

Under state law, students can register and vote in the Nov. 5 municipal election if they are a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, or age 17 and will be 18 by Election Day. Advance registration is also available for 16- and 17-year-olds who won’t be 18 by Election Day.

“This new policy would guide our schools in voter registration events,” said Gill. “It details the process for conducting the events and includes the collaboration between the schools and the Johnston County Board of Elections.”

Gill said the policy encourages Superintendent Ross Renfrow to establish regulations to facilitate the approval of when and where groups are allowed to hold voter registration drives.

“The events are to be nonpartisan and not endorse any candidate or cause,” said Gill. “The voter events must be approved by the superintendent. This is in compliance with a state statute and this policy is brought to you for the first time for information. It will be brought back in August.”

“What a great thing to encourage our students to exercise their right to vote, do their civic duty,” said school board member Teresa Grant. “It’s a beautiful thing, totally nonpartisan. It would just be a great addition to our policies.”

The school board will discuss the policy and consider it for approval during its Aug. 13 meeting. The school board doesn’t meet in July.