Youth Engagement Update
WashCo LWV member Genie Massey has been busy making contacts in the education community on our behalf as we explore ways to connect with young people in Washington County schools. Two ideas are beginning to take shape: Helping organize a youth-lead voter registration drive in high schools for 2024 and a civics education and empowerment effort in selected middle schools to be launched as early as this September.
Civics education and empowerment. Maryland’s BluePrint for Excellence in Education will be enabling after school enrichment programming at Northern Middle, E. Russell Hicks and Western Heights middle schools beginning this fall. Genie has been in touch with the coordinator at Western Heights and it has been determined that our League could be a provider using the curriculum called “Project Citizen” provided by the Center for Civic Education. According to their website,
“Project Citizen” provides a practical first-hand approach to learning about our complex system of government and how to monitor and influence it. Through our Curriculum, students will work together to research their community to discover problems and then identify solutions in the form of policy that require government involvement. Students also have the opportunity to display their research and policy suggestions through Showcases, a way for students to display their research and present their policy solutions to their classroom and/or community. Showcases are also held at the state and national levels, where classes have the opportunity to participate and share their work with other classes from across their state or nation. To learn more about Project Citizen and Professional Development opportunities, we invite you to explore the website and contact your State Coordinator or Center staff to learn how to get involved.
Voter Registration. It turns out that because of safety and access issues only students can do voter registration in our schools. But, young people who will be eligible to vote in the 2024 general election will be qualified to do voter registration. That means young people who will attain 18 by November of 2024 will be able to do registration and it is with those young people that we will be able to work to organize a voter registration drive. Those soon-to-be voters are also eligible to work as election judges during the primary election and early voting, providing ample opportunities for hands-on civic engagement, if we can figure out how to get them out of class!
Voting at age 16. Sixteen year olds can vote in municipal elections in Takoma Park, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, and Mount Rainier. This is possible because those communities have the Charter Home Rule form of government. Guess what, the City of Hagerstown is also a Charter Home Rule city under Maryland law! What a youth engagement project that would be for the young people of Hagerstown to tackle!
Paragraph 505 of the City code says, “Qualified voters of the city shall include every person who (1) is a citizen of the United States, (2) is at least eighteen years of age, or will be 18 years of age on or before the day of the next succeeding general or special election, (3) has resided within the corporate limits of the city for 21 days before the day of the next succeeding primary, general or special election, and (4) is registered in accordance with the Maryland Election Code.” According to Richard Willson’s research, following a duly conducted public hearing, the charter can be amended by the City Council. This power flows from Section 4-304(a)(2) of the Local Government Article of the Maryland Constitution.