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Roseville teens cast their first (mock) ballots

Voter outreach program teaches about the importance of being civic minded
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Roseville teenagers gave local politicos the third degree during presentations intended to teach youth about the importance of civic engagement.

They lobbed questions about taxes, the death penalty, domestic oil drilling, unions, the legalization of marijuana, illegal immigration and more.

The representatives visited local high schools in October as part of the Placer County election division’s annual voter outreach program. Each year, staff visits 10 to 12 high schools in the county to give seniors an opportunity to register to vote.

“(This program) helps students understand the differences between the two major political parties, as well as minor parties,” said Adelante High School social science teacher Heather McQueen. “With 2012 elections just around the corner, the program is especially important.”

The program started in 1995 when only 15 percent of young people in Placer County were registered to vote, and of those less than 25 percent voted on Election Day, said Lisa Cramer of the county clerk’s office.

Today, 82 percent of county residents ages 18 to 24 are registered, and 74 percent of them voted during the last major election.

The county’s election office provides representatives from political parties — Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green — to address their party’s platform during the program. Although there are six qualified parties in the United States, not all of them were able to supply a speaker.

California Federation of Republican Women Northern Division President Murriel Oles and Placer County Democratic Party member Michael Adams fielded questions from Woodcreek High School students Oct. 4. Roseville City School District board member Hallie Romero was also in attendance.

One senior asked if they believe in the right to bare arms. Adams said he believes that guns should be regulated.

“Our founding fathers were great guys, but they could not have imagined the world we live in today,” he said.

Oles responded by saying she is a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association.

“What’s your standpoint on illegal immigration?” asked senior Alicia Andrade.

Oles said the federal government needs to protect U.S. borders, “but we can’t send 14 million back to where they came from.”

Adams agreed that government must keep the borders secure, but with a caveat.

“There is a myth out there that they come here to take our benefits from us, or take our jobs from us,” Adams said. “We need to face reality. We need these people for our economy.”

They also responded to a question about same-sex marriage.

“I believe a marriage is between one man and one woman,” Oles said. “If they want to have domestic unions, I don’t have a problem with that.”

In response, Adams, who told the students he has been in a domestic partnership for 27 years, drew a comparison to the “separate but equal” legal doctrine of the past that justified segregation.

“There was nothing equal about it,” he said.

On Oct. 13, Republican Dianne Foster, Democrat Bob Golling, Libertarian Richard Simms and Romero visited Adelante High School.

Placer County elections representative Erin LaShell took students step-by-step through the process of filling out a voter registration form. If the student is not 18, his or her form will be placed in a chronological file with the county clerk until it can be added to the voter roll. Students also cast mock ballots in an electronic voting machine.

“Make sure you put people in place who stand for what you believe in,” Romero told the class. “So get out there and vote.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.