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City Launches Student Voter Registration Day to Target Low Turnout Rates

 Officials launched the city's first Student Voter Registration Day on March 20 to target low turnout rates among youth.
Officials launched the city's first Student Voter Registration Day on March 20 to target low turnout rates among youth.
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Officials launched a citywide campaign Friday aimed at registering thousands of high school students as voters.

Representatives from the Board of Elections and the city’s Campaign Finance Board brought its first-ever "Student Voter Registration Day" to the Boys and Girls High School in Bed-Stuy and several other schools around the city.

“The struggle for voting rights — which has spanned many decades — is still present,” Dr. John Flateau, Brooklyn Commissioner of the Board of Elections, said in a statement. “For young people to understand and participate in this struggle, they must first be engaged.”

Officials and community leaders traveled to several classrooms at the Fulton Street school Friday to lead workshops on civic engagement and register 17-and 18-year-olds to vote. During the program, organizers posed students questions about different issues, including financial aid and minimum wage, and discussed how their vote could impact decisions on them.

The "Student Voter Registration Day" is part of an initiative organized by Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and NYC Votes and was rolled out to 25 schools across the five boroughs Friday.

“We wanted to do this to raise students level of awareness,” said Nia Johnson, assistant principal of personnel services at Boys and Girls. “Our school is very student-centered and we want to make sure their voices are heard in every activity.

“This initiative pushes the idea that you have choices that can affect the community at large.”

In 2012, New York State ranked 44 out of 50 in total voter turnout, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

Those between the ages of 18 and 30 have the lowest voter turnout and are less likely to be registered compared to older adults, officials said. In the city’s 2013 mayor elections, youth voter turnout came in at 11 percent, according to a NYCCFB report. 

Friday's campaign is the first step in attempting to turn the figures around, organizers said. 

Officials said 80,000 registration forms are delivered to city high schools each year, though there is no follow-up system to make sure they are filed correctly and sent to the Board of Elections.

To ensure registration, workshop facilitators collected forms from eligible students Friday to submit for processing.

Organizers could not say how many students or classrooms they reached Friday.