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Nonprofit Visits Schools To Encourage Students To Register To Vote

By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) - Students rallied outside East High School on Tuesday as part of events across the country for National Voter Registration Day to increase the number of students in Colorado ready to vote. There is a little more than a month to go before the general election.

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"I think that there really is, among my generation, a move toward political activism," said Michael Ankner, 17, a senior who organized the event at his high school.

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Michael Ankner (credit: CBS)

Inspire U.S. is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization focused on registering high school students across the country. The group is working with 300 high schools in 10 different states. For the past three years, it has registered or pledged 50,000 students to vote, according to the organization's website.

"I just think it's not a priority. It's not important to them," said Myles Patterson, 17, another senior at East High School.

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Dozens of students listened to Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talk about the importance of participating in elections and registering to vote. Students say they are talking about the issues but often their age group doesn't prioritize staying active in politics.

"In this generation, they need something to distract them," said Zach Azer, 17 another senior at East. "I think having more events like this brings awareness to voter registration."

According to data available from the Secretary of State's office, only about one percent of voters registered in Colorado are high school students pre-registering at the age of 16 or 17. Events like the one outside of the high school hope to improve that number. Students say they are realizing their voice has value and can be an important addition to the conversation.

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"I feel like younger people can bring in a new light to show that there's different opinions than just the ones that were previously brought up," said Preston Johnson, 16, a sophomore at East.

The challenge, the students admit, is motivating a group of potential voters to not only to talk about the issues, but take action on them.

"We, especially at this school, live in a culture that likes to comment on the political situation instead of enacting in the political situation, especially as individuals," said Jackson Howes, 16, another sophomore at East.

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But students attending their first registration event and those organizing it agree they need more gatherings like this to help young voters realize the impact they can have on an election and the country.

"There really is a more of a movement towards valuing our ability to vote," said Ankner.

The deadline to register to vote online in Colorado is Monday, Oct. 29. That is also the deadline to register to vote by mail, in order to receive your ballot. You can still register in person and vote on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6.

LINK: Inspire U.S. | Colorado Secretary of State's Office Website

Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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