Scholars Academy Director Dr. Dale Graham kicked off the events of the day at the morning assembly for seventh through twelfth graders and introduced Farran Burnette Scholars Academy Advanced Placement American Government teacher who stressed the importance of voting and explained the format of the mock election. In addition to casting a Republican, Democrat, or Independent ballot on an actual voting machine with their social studies classes in the Multipurpose Room; students traveled through educational stations that explained the Secretary of State’s website and the steps necessary to register to vote.
The variety of speakers included: Jacob Cone, Scholars Academy senior and Secretary of State Student Ambassador; Michael Bryant, representative from Congressman Sanford Bishop’s office; and Frank Scoggins, Thomas County Elections Supervisor.
Cone began his address by expressing his excitement about the school-wide event and his own impending ability as an 18-year-old to vote in the general election this year. He mentioned the times before he turned 18 that people asked him why he cares because he couldn’t vote anyway. He reiterated that he cares deeply and that he has looked forward to his 18th birthday to exercise his right to vote.
Cone quoted Lyndon B. Johnson when he said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Cone listed several reasons why one should exercise his or her right to vote such as: voting in honor of those who do not have the right, voting to prove wrong those who may think that the youth of today are lazy and apathetic, and voting so that other people are not making choices for them.
Lastly, Cone asked the students to imagine what our forefathers would think about ignoring the right to vote after they fought the control of a monarchy, what Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton would think if they saw millennial women staying home on election day, or what African American leaders of the 1940’s would think of eligible citizens missing their opportunity to have a voice.
Bryant started his speech by conveying the importance of voting to the youth by saying, “We need you! We want you!”
Bryant gave the students a memorable way to think about the importance of voting: Victory Of The Election. Candidates or referendums will lose and others will win, but there is still victory in the process of election. He also charged students to respond to those who came before us whose “blood, sweat, and tears” were shed to gain the right to vote.
The importance of electing officials at various levels of government was highlighted by Bryant through his discussion of practical outcomes like which roads get paved, or which companies are restricted from forming monopolies, or which projects will clean up polluted water or prevent the spread of the Zika virus.
Scoggins followed up by explaining that there are 15 different ways to register to vote, the ease of Early Voting, and the number of precincts in Thomas County. He explained Absentee Ballot voting for overseas military personnel and for college students living temporarily in a college town.
Scoggins ended his address by reinforcing the “Your Voice = Your Vote” theme as he told the students a story about an election in a northeastern Georgia county where the winner of a probate court judge position was decided by one vote.