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Event urges students to participate in elections

WESSON – While little kids in Brookhaven’s elementary schoolshave been making a show of their election awareness through the”Promote the Vote” campaign, the big kids at Copiah-LincolnCommunity College took their turn to make some election noiseTuesday night.

Approximately 180 Co-Lin students braved the steadily droppingtemperatures at dusk Tuesday for Phi Theta Kappa’s “Rock the Vote,”a two-hour event with guest speakers, prizes and live rock n’roll.

The concert/rally was one of the last in a long line of eventssponsored by PTK to get the college’s students plugged into thenation’s political scene. After weeks of registration drives to getstudents ready to vote, this time the organization called in aveteran state politician to drive home the importance ofparticipating in the election.

“Voting is the strongest voice you’re going to have in thepolitical process,” said District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. “Thepeople you vote for are going to make the rules that you will liveby.”

Hyde-Smith urged the students not just to show up at the polls,but to research the candidates in-depth and know their policies.She reminded the crowd of the sacrifices of the past that were madein order to preserve the right to vote, and that it should beexercised knowledgably and whenever possible.

She also reminded the students that not everyone on the planethas the right to stroll into a precinct and choose their leaders.She shared the story of a female senator in the Turkish Parliamentshe met while visiting Ankara earlier this summer.

“In the village she came from, she was never allowed to walkdown the market street because she was a woman,” Hyde-Smith said.”But now that she’s an elected official, she walks that way toParliament every day. It made me realize that even today no oneenjoys the full liberties that we, as Americans, do.”

Hyde-Smith pulled out all the stops to honor the voting process.However, it appears college students – at Co-Lin and across thecountry – are already prepared to march on the polls on Nov. 4.

“I’ve seen more interest in the 18-24-year-old group than I everhave,” Hyde-Smith said afterward. “I truly believe there will berecord turnouts Tuesday, and this young group will be part ofthat.”

Hyde-Smith said the buildup of the election in the students’minds would likely make a lasting impression and produce a group oflifelong voters.

“Once that seed has been planted in the mind of a first-timevoter, it’s more likely to be remembered,” she said. “When you havea large emphasis put on a first election like this, it makes agreat impression.”

That’s exactly the result PTK is looking for.

PTK president Ashlee Richardson said the organization workedevery Tuesday in September to register more than 200 students tovote.

“I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but theyneeded to be registered, and they are now,” she said. “We’ve donethe best we can do to get people ready for the election, and nowit’s up to them.”

Richardson said PTK waited until one week before the election tohost “Rock the Vote” to keep it fresh on the students’ minds. Onemore voter awareness event, a mock election, will be heldMonday.

The group wants to see as many college students as possiblelined up at the polls Tuesday.

“We’re all in college, and the 18-24 age range is the missingvoting deficit,” Richardson said. “It affects us right now – we’rethe generation coming up, looking for jobs that these electedofficials are going to influence.”

Co-Lin President Dr. Ronnie Nettles said he was proud to see anelection-focused program like “Rock the Vote” held on his campus -an especially pleasing event, he said, since it was entirelystudent-led.

Nettles said college students’ participation in voting fitssquarely into Co-Lin’s mission to teach its students not onlyacademics, but civic responsibility.

“It’s not really political, it’s about what’s best for all ofus,” he said. “We want the college itself to be involved in thecommunity, and this is one of those ways our students are involvedin a civic way.”