CHARLESTON, W.Va. - On Tuesday, high school students from throughout the state who are active with the Inspire West Virginia program traveled to Charleston to participate in “A Day at the Capitol” hosted by the Our Children, Our Future statewide initiative to address poverty and other issues important to West Virginia families.
During the students’ visit to the capitol, high school juniors and seniors who have worked tirelessly through the Inspire West Virginia program to register almost 1,500 new youth voters across the state last year were welcomed by West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner. The Secretary of State is the chief elections official in West Virginia.
During an 8 a.m. press conference, Secretary Warner welcomed the “Inspired” students, their parents and several of their teachers to the state capitol. He also used the opportunity to announce that his office was partnering with Inspire West Virginia to kick off the “Honorary Secretary of State for the Day” recognition program.
“Inspire West Virginia is working to engage high school students throughout the state into becoming registered voters. In addition to registering to vote, the program challenges students to become informed voters on election day,” said Secretary Warner. “Two years ago, West Virginia boasted the youngest legislator in the nation with Delegate Saira Blair – at the time, elected at age 17 to represent Morgan and Berkeley counties. Since then, voters in districts across the state have voted for, and in several cases elected, millennials to serve in the House of Delegates, on city councils, and even on school boards.”
“Inspire West Virginia is one of those programs that provides the inspiration for our young people to become engaged as voters, as opinion leaders and yes, even as elected officials. When our young citizens get involved it improves our communities and strengthens our democracy,” Warner said.
Inspire West Virginia partners closely with the Secretary of State’s Office and county clerks to ensure that West Virginia’s young people get registered to vote and show up at the polls as informed voters come election time.
This was the first opportunity that Inspired student leaders had to meet and talk directly with Secretary Warner.
In addition to announcing the “Honorary Secretary of State for the Day” program, Secretary Warner also expressed an eagerness to work with the students to attain the Jennings Randolph Award for their high schools – an annual award given to high schools who have registered 100 percent of their eligible seniors to vote.
The award is named for the late U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph, who represented West Virginia from 1958 to 1985. Senator Randolph introduced and helped to pass the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 years old. The 26th Amendment passed ratification in West Virginia on April 28, 1971 and was then adopted by Congress on July 1, 1971.
Inspire West Virginia is a non-partisan non-profit organization working to empower youth through voter registration and civic engagement. Inspire West Virginia currently works with 95 students representing 38 high schools across 20 counties. Student participants, called Inspired Leaders, work to register voters at their high schools and to increase the number of informed, active voters in a nonpartisan way.
Pictured (from left to right) Row 1: Rachel Dorsey, Hannah Grim,, Hannah Caldwell, Ozan Ozbeker, and Brad Bordelon. Row 2: Bethany Winters, Andrew Willis, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Erin Dodd, and Madison Settle.
This year’s Honorary Secretaries of State are:
• Erin Dodd, South Charleston High (Kanawha County)
• Ca'Sandra Smith, South Charleston High (Kanawha County)
• Hannah Caldwell, South Charleston High (Kanawha County)
• Andrew Willis, Charleston Catholic High (Kanawha County)
• Madison Settle, Charleston Catholic High (Kanawha County)
• Ozan Ozbeker, Nicholas County High (Nicholas County)
• Brad Bordelon, Nicholas County High (Nicholas County)
• Rachel Dorsey, Nicholas County High (Nicholas County)
• Hannah Grim, Nicholas County High (Nicholas County)
• Bethany Winters, Liberty High (Harrison County)
• Georgia Beatty, Weir High (Hancock County)
• Anna Creel, Weir High (Hancock County)
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