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Batavia students eager to register to vote

Law allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary if they’ll be 18 for general election

BATAVIA – Kane County officials Wednesday told Batavia High School students they can register to vote at a younger age than ever before.

About 45 students heard director of elections Suzanne Fahnestock speak at the high school about a new law, which went into effect Jan. 1. Under this law, Illinois residents who are 17 years old can register to vote in a primary election if they will turn 18 before the general election.

This year, the primary election will be March 18, and the general election will be Nov. 4.

Fahnestock was joined at the event by Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez and Phil Morris, director of technology at the Kane County Regional Office of Education. During the event, they and the students also watched a brief video showing the registration process and how to use an electronic voting machine.

Adults and teens at the presentation were in agreement that everyone should exercise their right to vote.

“You can’t make a difference unless you’re part of the group going out there to vote,” Batavia senior Nicholas Kelly said.

Kelly, 17, was the first person Wednesday to register to vote at the high school. He signed up at a registration table set up outside the school cafeteria after the presentation. Kelly said he had intended to register for some time but wasn’t sure where to go sign up. He said registering to vote was quick and easy.

Other students were interested in registering, but unlike Kelly, they did not have two valid forms of identification on them. Luckily for them, two Batavia High School social studies teachers – Bill Kettering and Joseph Franz – are deputy registrars and can sign up students when they are ready.

Kettering said he and Franz likely have registered thousands of students in the past two decades at the school.

He took his AP government class to the Wednesday presentation because he considers it his job to get them ready to vote.

“Our democracy requires their participation,” Kettering said of his students.

At least one of Kettering’s students thinks it’s cool that he and other 17-year-olds are getting an opportunity that past teens didn’t. Batavia senior Tucker Knox was at the presentation and said he intends to register to vote soon.

A Kane County Clerk’s Office representative will be at Kaneland High School today to give a similar presentation, Fahnestock said.

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