New Bedford Pilot Program Encourages Youth to Vote
The youth of the SouthCoast are the future leaders who will shape our community. There's a novel local program being set in motion, designed to get SouthCoast youth involved before they reach voting age.
"We're calling it 'NB Votes: Youth Empowerment Program,' that involves Mayor Jon Mitchell's Youth Council, some local high school students and myself," said New Bedford Election Commissioner Manny DeBrito. "These students will be helping me introduce my role as New Bedford Election Commissioner to fifth grade and high school students."
Some young and new energy will be present at the November 8 state election polling places in New Bedford.
"The high school students will go through mandatory training and instruction," DeBrito said. "About 25 to 30 students will earn a day's wages while assisting the experienced poll workers with jobs like checking in voters and crossing off people who've voted – when a poll worker goes to lunch, for instance. They'll also shadow the precinct warden and learn what they can and cannot do at a polling place."
Although one must be 18 years old to cast a ballot, teens can learn how to register to vote so they'll be familiar with it when that milestone comes.
"They get engaged and involved in civics," DeBrito said.
He said he came up with the idea to help stop the declining number of voters in the city.
"When I speak to fifth graders, and ask them how many plan to vote when they grow older, there's 100 percent agreement. When I do the same at the high schools, only half the hands get raised and it's even worse with college aged students," DeBrito said. "And need I remind you of the dismal 13 percent turnout for the primary election? We're losing them. If NB Votes can inspire just one youth to one day run for office, then my idea will be successful."