Students across Jefferson County Public Schools are celebrating Constitution Day Tuesday, to honor when the U.S. Constitution was signed by delegates.
At Central High School, teacher Joe Gutmann quizzed the students in his senior law class on Constitutional trivia.
“What day is Constitution Day?” he asks.
“Today…” students answer in unison, giggling.
“OK, that was too easy of a question,” Gutmann responds, ramping up the oncoming trivia.
He asks students much harder questions about Constitutional requirements to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, about First Amendment rights for students, and one very important question:
“Who’s gonna be 18 by this November?” Gutmann polls the class. It’s a question teachers across JCPS are asking students this week, to remind them to register to vote in time for the fall election.
JCPS has collaborated with the Frazier History Museum to launch the website Whatisavoteworth.org. The site offers teachers curriculum on the history of suffrage, to show the struggle women and African Americans have faced in order to gain the right and access to vote.
Central High Principal Raymond Green says his staff has been pushing an initiative all year to get more eligible students registered to vote at school.
Down in the principal’s office, 18 year-old Jerome Harrison registers online at the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website.
“I didn’t know it was just that easy,” Harrison said. “I thought you had to go through a whole packet of paperwork. It was faster than getting a physical done for sports.”
Harrison recognized that this process was especially easy, compared to the struggle women and African Americans have faced in the past. But Harrison said he wouldn’t have known the deadline to register was approaching, if he hadn’t heard at school. He also said he’s taken more interest in politics since turning 18.
“Eighteen is when everything is opened up for you, a lot of doors,” Harrison said.
Other students have not yet reached those doors, but they’re already looking ahead. Seventeen year-old senior Trey Hayden celebrated Constitution Day by wearing a shirt with the preamble of the Constitution across his shoulders. He’s too young to vote this fall, but he says he’s excited about next year.
“Of course, I’m gonna be waiting at the door waiting to register to vote. I can’t wait,” Hayden said.
His classmate Briana Barker is not quite old enough to vote either, but she wishes she could because the governor and many local offices are on the ballot this fall.
“The state and local elections are kind of more important than the presidential elections, because when you vote your state officials, those are the people that are gonna be representing your state, you at home, and they know the problems that you go through at home,” Barker said.
The deadline to register to vote in the fall election for races from the governor’s seat to the local school board is October 7th.