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Youth Movement Renewing Efforts To Get Young People Registered To Vote

Hugo Phan
KMUW/File photo
The deadline to register to vote in the August primary election is July 17.

A nationwide youth movement focusing on the issue of gun violence is also trying to get more young people registered to vote.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show young people historically have the lowest voting and registration rates among all age groups.

Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman says about 28,000 18-to-24 year olds were registered to vote in the 2016 election; about 13,000, or 46 percent, actually voted.

The Sedgwick County turnout is higher than the statewide turnout of 35.8 percent for this age group in 2016, according to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The U.S. Census Bureau says 14.3 percent of 18-to 24-year olds in Kansas voted in 2014, the last midterm election.

Voter turnout for people 60 and older statewide was about 70 percent for the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Lehman says her staff held registration drives in 19 high schools last year and will hold more this spring.

“Our hope is if we can get them engaged early, then they will stay engaged and stay part of the political process throughout their lives,” Lehman says.

Members of the League of Women Voters Wichita Metro Chapter are also planning voter registration drives at high schools in Wichita and throughout Sedgwick County.

League Voter Services Chair Carole Neal says the chapter received a $1,000 grant to pay printing costs for voter information materials and the federal registration form. She says their goal is to get more high school students registered to vote.

“Whatever decisions are made now affects them, and they are our next leaders,” Neal says.

If high school students register to vote now, and then move away for work or college, Lehman says there are options when it comes to voting next fall.

“In Kansas, they can keep their registration here and just ask for a ballot to be mailed to them at school. Or, they can register to vote where they are going to college, but they cannot vote both places,” she says.

Neal says the group passed out voter information cards during last Saturday’s march in downtown Wichita. At least 37 people registered to vote.

Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW
Students protest against gun violence last weekend in Wichita. Organizers of the march also are trying to get students registered to vote.

“Our young people are really more interested in what’s going on. They are more active in the communities, and they are looking for a voice,” Neal says.

The Wichita crowd was among hundreds of thousands of people who participated in "March for Our Lives" events nationwide last weekend calling for stricter gun control in response to school shootings and gun violence.

Overall, voter turnout in Sedgwick County was 65.8 percent in 2016 and 52.4 percent in 2014. The deadline to register to vote in the August primary election is July 17.


Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.