Voter registrations at high schools continuing

Published 2:47 pm Thursday, May 12, 2011

 “I am looking for the voter lady,” said one Picayune high school senior, as she walked into the career center offices at Picayune Memorial High School.

“I’m her,” replied Pearl River County Circuit Court Clerk Vickie Hariel. “Have a seat, and I will be right with you.”

Hariel was at Picayune high school all day Wednesday registering 18-year-olds for the upcoming elections. For those who register, the August and November elections will be the first time they get to exercise that Constitutional right in a real-life election. At the end of the day, she said she had registered 49 new voters at PMHS.

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“Some are really excited,” said Hariel, “over the prospect of casting their first vote.”

She was at Poplarville high school on Friday, where she registered 23, and then traveled to Pearl River Central high school on Monday where she registered 95.

“I am amazed at the interest the kids display concerning this right that they are assuming. Some are taking it very seriously, and that is good,” said Hariel.

The first person to register on Wednesday at Picayune high school was senior Ethel Armador, 18, who said she was excited about casting her first vote in a real election in August.

  Hariel, as circuit clerk, is also the Pearl River County Registrar of Voters and is responsible for keeping the voter rolls in Pearl River County and for signing up new voters.

During a break in signing up young prospective voters in Picayune on Wednesday, she said that most circuit clerks in the state just drop off applications at the schools in the Spring and Fall, but, she added, “We decided to do it a little differently here.

“We believe that by showing an interest in the students and letting them see a face of a voter official, it will help them understand what an important step it is to register and be allowed to exercise the right to vote,” she said. “Really, the vote is one of the most precious rights we have in America.”

She said that if a young person turns 18 on or before Nov. 8, the General Election, they can register to vote, and although not 18 prior to the August primaries, they are allowed to vote in the primaries.

The first primary is Aug. 2; any runoffs are two weeks later; and the General Election is set for Nov. 8. Pearl River County has a large slate of local candidates to decide among and also a large slate of state candidates to choose from.

“We decided to get the students involved in the registration process,” said Hariel. “We show up, help register the student and we demonstrate how to use the TSX unit (the voting machine), and thereby, we encourage students to go out and vote and participate in the process of the elections.

“This is a good opportunity for our office,” she added.

She said students are expressing great interests.

“We were amazed at Carriere; the students were just bubbling over with excitement.” She said she has suggested that teachers give extra points to students who show they voted in the primaries.

“We are really interested in getting these students off to a good start and teaching them to begin a habit of always voting at election time,” said Hariel.