PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sixty-six students registered to vote when Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis visited Exeter-West Greenwich Senior High School (EWGSHS) Tuesday as part of a statewide voter registration drive.
Members of the Junior and Senior Classes registered in two waves during assemblies in the school auditorium. Mollis rolled a call to public service into the drive.
"Students who register to vote are more likely to become active and informed citizens of this state. Some of these young people will be our leaders of tomorrow. Now is the time to engage them," said Mollis.
His emphasis on young people reflects the reality of record-breaking elections in 2008 that saw Rhode Island set new marks for the number of registered voters as well as voter turnout.
"Nearly 9 out of 10 eligible Rhode Islanders are already registered. The growth in our state will come from reaching out the newly eligible groups like high school and college students," said Mollis.
The stop at EWGSHS was a partnership with the state Board of Elections, school administrators and the Exeter and West Greenwich Boards of Canvassers.
"I am grateful to our partners for their commitment to this important initiative. Our success will pay dividends for decades to come as these youngsters exercise their right to vote election after election," Mollis said.
The Secretary of State's office plans to visit every Rhode Island high school leading up to the 2012 elections. In order to register to vote, students must be U.S. citizens, residents of Rhode Island and at least 18 years old by Election Day.
"An informed electorate is the keystone of democracy. Our visit produced a new generation of voters and citizens committed to making their voices heard," Mollis said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 48.2 percent of eligible 18-to-24-year-old Rhode Islanders were registered to vote on Election Day 2010. Just 39.2 percent actually voted in that election.
The Secretary of State's office prepares the ballots for all federal, state and municipal elections held in Rhode Island. In addition, the office maintains the state's central voter registration system and distributes handbooks that explain how to run for office, how to register to vote and how to vote.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders,
Mollis posts voter registration forms and answers to frequently asked questions for students who missed his visit to EWGSHS.