In 2015, Arizona became the 1st state to pass law requiring high-school civics test: The American Civics Act will require students to pass 60 of the 100 questions on the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization civics test. They can first take the test in eighth grade, and can retake it until they pass.
If Arizona really wants to teach its children civics – the obligation of American citizens to actively participate in the democratic political process, at a minimum, through voting – then an opportunity to put actions before empty platitudes will present itself in the coming weeks.
The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have organized the March for Our Lives and #NeverAgain movement. Several civics events are planned, i.e., the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances:
On March 24 students, teachers and allies will take to the streets of Washington, DC and our communities across the country for March for Our Lives. We will be the last group of students who have to stand up for fallen children due to senseless gun violence. March with us. Sign up at marchforourlives.com.
On April 20th students and teachers will participate in the National School Walkout at 10:00 a.m. Sit outside your schools and peacefully protest. Make some noise. Voice your thoughts. “We are students, we are victims, we are change.” Sign the petition at Change.org National High School Walk-Out for Anti Gun Violence.
My thought was that the Arizona Secretary of State’s office and our 15 County Recorder’s offices, along with voter registration organizations such as the League of Women Voters and many others, could coordinate with Arizona’s school districts to make voter registration tables available at every Arizona high school for seniors participating in these extraordinary events to register to vote. High school civics teachers should see this as a golden opportunity to teach their students about civics.
Then I remembered … this is Arizona. This is cockeyed optimism in this state. There are more likely to be partisan school boards that will not permit their students to participate in these walkouts — First Amendment rights be damned — and partisan county recorders who do not want to register new voters with a political position opposite their own. “Screw you damn kids!”
Luckily, almost every high school student today has a smart phone, or a tablet, or a laptop, or knows someone who does, with access to the Internet. So these high school seniors can be proactive on their own initiative and register to vote without obstructionist adults standing in their way.
In Arizona, you can register to vote online. Your basic obstructionist adult defeater!
Here is the Secretary of State’s website explanation of eligibility for voter registration and for registering to vote online:
To register to vote in Arizona you must meet the following qualifications (A.R.S. § 16-101):
- Be a United States citizen
- Be a resident of Arizona and the county listed on your registration
- Be 18 years of age or older on or before the day of the next regular General Election
Note: If you are 17 years of age but will turn 18 years of age on our before the day of the next regular General Election, Tuesday, November 6, you can register to vote, HOWEVER, you cannot sign political petitions or cast a vote until you have actually reached the legal age of 18 years of age.
You cannot register to vote in Arizona if (A.R.S. § 16-101):
- You have been convicted of a felony and have not yet had your civil rights restored*
- You have been adjudicated incompetent
*Note: For a first-time felony conviction, civil rights are automatically restored upon completion of a person’s sentence and payment of any fines and restitution.
To register to vote Online:
- If you have an Arizona Driver License and/or an Arizona non-operating I.D. card issued by the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) you may register to vote through Service Arizona EZ Voter Registration(link is external)
- Log on to Service Arizona(link is external)
- Select your language preference, then click “Begin/Update Voter Registration”
- Verify your voter eligibility
- Enter your information in the required fields
- Verify address information
- You can now select your party preference
If you are having trouble logging in to the Service Arizona website, you can print off a Voter Registration Form (PDF) and fill it out with your new information. After you finish, mail the completed form to your county recorder’s office and your information will be updated.
- By Mail – You can either print off a form online (PDF) or request that a registration form be mailed to you from your County Recorder. After completing the voter registration form, mail it to your county recorder’s office.
- In Person – You may visit your County Recorder’s office and fill out a registration form in person.
- Address Confidentiality Program Members – You should only register to vote through the ACP process.
After you have successfully registered to vote you will receive a voter registration card in the mail within 4-6 weeks.
High school seniors, you’re not all on your own in registering to vote. There are a number of voter registration organizations, including the political parties, who are happy to assist you in registering to vote.
And there is this new development. Tom Steyer, gun safety groups plan voter registration drive for high school students:
In response to last week’s deadly shooting in Florida, two prominent gun safety groups are joining with Tom Steyer, the Democratic billionaire activist, in a push ahead of the midterm elections to register high school students to vote around gun issues.
Steyer’s NextGen America group is working with Giffords — the group founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, after she was shot in 2011 — and Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The effort is kicking off with a $1 million donation from Steyer.
“In the wake of this shooting in Parkland, what we saw was [that] the difference between this shooting and other shootings is these were older kids, and they had a voice that was incredibly powerful on a topic where elected officials had been paid for years — or decades — to look the other way,” Steyer told POLITICO, referring to surviving students who have spoken out in favor of stricter gun laws.
The push will expand the footprint of NextGen America beyond the college campuses where it maintains a significant presence across the country.
“We’ve always said the millennials are the biggest and least politically represented group in the U.S. This is exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Steyer, the hedge fund manager turned environmentalist turned megadonor.
The effort, which will include a national voter registration drive, will focus on states and districts represented by incumbent Republican lawmakers who have taken money from the National Rifle Association and voted against gun control measures.
The campaign is set to launch on March 25, the day after planned protests for gun safety spurred by the Parkland shooting.
“If this Congress won’t act to protect our kids, we must elect one that will,” Giffords said in a statement that the coalition was set to release on Thursday evening. “If the politicians who have benefited from millions of dollars in NRA cash won’t pass laws to make our schools and communities safer, we will vote them out. Today, students from Parkland and across the country are inspiring the country to be better. Come November, many of those young Americans will be making the difference themselves as they cast their votes for the first time.”
The effort, which will include digital and mail registration pushes, will also work to pre-register students who are not yet 18 in states where that is allowed.
The pledged money is on top of the $30 million Steyer has already committed to trying to flip the House of Representatives from GOP control. He announced that effort in January while revealing that he would not run for office back home in California.
Democracy is not a spectator sport. If you want your voices heard, you must participate in our democracy. Register to vote, and then actually cast your ballot. “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” – Abraham Lincoln.