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PA High Schools Compete in Voter Registration Challenge

09/22/2020

Harrisburg, PA – In celebration of National Voter Registration Day, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar reminded Pennsylvanians that the fourth annual Governor's Civic Engagement Award (GCEA) Program for high schools is underway. The program promotes student-led voter registration efforts and recognizes schools that register at least 65 percent of their eligible students.

"The Pennsylvania Department of State is proud to be part of this innovative, nonpartisan program, which teaches young people civics and cultivates the lifelong habit of voting. By inspiring their peers to register, vote, and serve as poll workers, they become invested in our democracy," Secretary Boockvar said. "A presidential election year presents an ideal teaching opportunity. I urge educators to enroll their schools in the program as soon as possible so they can get the voter registration toolkit early and receive valuable updates throughout the school year."

Schools that register at least 85 percent of their eligible students earn a Gold Level Award, while schools that register 65 percent or more of their eligible students earn a Silver Level Award. To be eligible to register to vote, a student must be a U.S. citizen and 18 years of age, or turn 18 on or before the date of the next primary, special, municipal or general election.

Participating schools will have two voter registration opportunities this school year – for the November general election and the 2021 primary next May. The deadline to apply for a GCEA for the 2020-21 school year is May 5, 2021. Recognition events will be held in May to honor the winning schools and students.

The GCEA program is a cooperative effort by the Departments of State and Education. It offers student leaders resources on voter registration and educates them about the electoral process and the importance of civic engagement.

"Voting is the foundation of the democratic process and allows our citizens to express their viewpoints," said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. "As students learn about the Voting Rights Act and the struggles to protect and uphold these rights, we encourage them to take the next step and register to vote through this important initiative."

The GCEA program has grown in popularity. In its inaugural year, 16 high schools won awards. The second year, 23 schools won awards and eight student poll workers earned individual recognition. Last year, 43 schools won awards and 13 student poll workers were recognized.

The Department of State recently hosted a kickoff webinar for the 2020-21 GCEA program. New this year is a Student Showcase on the department's website, where participating schools can share creative approaches they have employed to encourage voter registration and recruit new poll workers.

September Is National Voter Registration Month

In 2002, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) established National Voter Registration Month in September as a non-partisan means of encouraging voter participation and increasing awareness of state voting requirements and deadlines.

National Voter Registration Day, launched in 2012 by a coalition of nonprofit and voter advocacy organizations and supported by NASS, is held this year on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Pennsylvanians wishing to register to vote must be:

  • A citizen of the United States for at least one month before the election;
  • A resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which the individual desires to register and vote for at least 30 days before the election, and
  • At least 18 years of age on or before the date of the election.

October 19 is Pennsylvania's deadline to register to vote in the November 3 election. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is 5 p.m. on October 2,  but voters should not wait; they should apply today and submit their ballot as soon as they receive it.

The Department of State's votesPA.com website  offers a Ready to Vote toolkit and Resource Center where Pennsylvanians can find:

For more information on voter registration, call the Department of State's toll-free hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) or visit votesPA.com.

MEDIA CONTACT:    Wanda Murren, 717-783-1621

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