Cook County Clerk David Orr on Tuesday congratulated Maine East High School students Andrea Garneata and Veronica Malesinski, the winners of a “Voting at 17” video contest.
In addition to personally congratulating the students and their teachers at the Park Ridge high school Tuesday afternoon, Clerk Orr and staff are teaming with the school to conduct voter registration for 17-year-old students on Thursday.
“Veronica and Andrea produced a wonderful video that conveys the excitement 17-year-olds have about getting to vote,” Clerk Orr said. “Their enthusiasm reminds us all of the great power that our vote gives us.”
The video contest was held to generate awareness of the new Suffrage at 17 law, which for the first time in Illinois history allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the November 2014 General Election to register and vote in the March 18 Primary. Students were encouraged to state briefly, in videos shot at their schools, why they will register and vote in 2014.
The recognition of the winning video comes as Orr’s’s office kicks off “Democracy Week,” a countywide effort to register 17-year-olds. Orr’s office organized voter registration drives or deputy registrar trainings at about 50 of the 80 high schools in suburban Cook County, including Hersey, Proviso Math and Science Academy, Fenwick, Reavis, Trinity, Oak Park-River Forest, Thornton Township, Thornridge, and Glenbrook South.
Orr’s office and the Chicago Board of Elections are partnering with deputy registrar organizations including (but not limited to): the League of Women Voters, Mikva, ICIRR, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, NAACP, Top Ladies of Distinction, Delta Sigma Theta, Pastors United for Change, National Action Network and the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago.
Some schools showed real initiative and already registered hundreds of students. Lyons Township High School registered 423 new voters on Thursday; New Trier High School registered more than 300, and more than 100 new voters registered at Loyola Academy.
“It takes a mighty effort to register students at every high school in Cook County,” Orr said, “but what we’ve seen so far – students lining up to register, then sharing the fact that they’ve registered to vote on social media – just shows us how seriously young voters take this right and how excited they are to take part in the electoral process.”
For the video contest, students were asked to complete this statement: “I’m 17 years old and I’m going to register and vote because …” Andrea & Veronica’s video responses included “freedom!” “safety!” and, taking one word apiece, three students answered, “a – stable – government.”
The video ends with Andrea standing at a podium, looking straight into the camera and asking, “What do you stand for?”
That the students were able to effectively convey a strong civic engagement message in just 10 seconds comes as no surprise to their teachers.
“Andrea and Veronica are two excellent visual storytellers,” said Phillip Ash, who teaches video production at Maine East. “To produce a clear, visual, pro-voting message in 10 seconds was a good challenge for them and they were eager to do it. I’m very proud of their work, and I’m thankful that they’re being recognized. It’s a well-deserved honor.”
American Studies teacher Chris Peters urged Andrea to participate because she is “a very conscientious student.”
Clerk Orr thanked the other high schools who participated in the video contest: Proviso Mathematics and Science, Niles North, Palatine & Brother Rice.
“If young voters get engaged in the electoral process when they’re in high school, they are more likely to participate in elections over the rest of their lives,” Clerk Orr said. “Young people who get involved in the process and register and vote, when they’re in school are on the road to becoming lifelong voters.”
Veronica, who was behind the camera, noted that another important reason why 17-year-olds should vote “is because they are the future of this country. They are the ones that are going to be affected by the policies these politicians are making.”