Student Published in Local Paper (Rockford, Ill.)

Date: March 19, 2013
Andrew Harrington, a student at the Rockford Innovation Learning Center, was recently published in the Rockford Register Star newspaper (article below). The center’s job coach Megan Salley said Andrew will be doing more reporting in the future as part of his “Learning for Life” Career Exploration program.

Election 2013: Old enough to vote in area races but not doing so yet (Rockford, Ill.)

By Kevin Haas | Posted Mar 17, 2013

About this project: Student journalists participating in the Learning for Life career exploring program, an affiliate of Blackhawk Area Council Boy Scouts, contributed to this report by interviewing their classmates: East junior Taylor Hoffman, Harlem sophomore Monica Gross, Auburn senior Kayla Dusing, Auburn sophomore Rianna Boyd-Pelly and East senior Andrew Harrington. For more information on the career exploring program, call program executive Patricia Chávez, 815-397-0210, ext. 7507.

ROCKFORD — Had Almira Karajic been born 54 days earlier, she would have cast her first vote in a historic presidential election she deeply cared about.

Instead, her first opportunity at the voting booth is for a typically low-turnout affair she knows very little about.

Karajic, 18, is part of a crop of voters whose birthday fell after the presidential election and before this spring’s municipal contest. Few of her peers show much interest in the local races, and voter registration numbers show it.

About 3 percent of the 3,012 voters who have registered to vote in Rockford and Winnebago County since the Nov. 6 presidential election did so because they turned voting age, according to registration records from city and county election authorities. That’s 95 18-year-olds who registered.

“They don’t feel like they’re involved in it, and they don’t really need to know about it at this moment because they’re not on their own yet,” said Ashley Adams, 18, of Roscoe. “They’re just worried about school and friends.”

Adams’ focus is on juggling seven classes at Harlem High School, practicing with the Ski Broncs water-ski show team and working as a dietary aide at Lincolnshire Place, which serves seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. After graduation, she plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha. She isn’t registered to vote and doesn’t plan to until it’s time for the 2016 presidential race.

The apathy for municipal elections isn’t exclusive to young voters. Consider, for example, that turnout in the November presidential election was about 70 percent in Winnebago County. It was just 15 percent during the last municipal election in 2009. Similar numbers were reported in the city of Rockford, which had 65 percent turnout in November and 25 percent in 2009.

“I will start participating in these elections when I am older and know more about local politics,” said Dillon Michaelson, a senior at East who turned 18 in January.

Michaelson is a registered voter, but he’s unsure whether he’ll participate in the spring election.

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