Officials from all over LaPorte County along with a panel of students from local schools convened early Saturday morning at the Purdue Northwest campus in Westville to discuss the future of voting in the county.
The conference, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of LaPorte County, the LaPorte County Better Government Study Group, the LaPorte County Chapter of the NAACP, and Leadership LaPorte, was organized as a forum to discuss ways to enhance the electoral and political process in the county.
The student panel, which represented various schools in the county, was brought together to provide insight and feedback on the impact of politics and government on the student population.
During the conference, students were given the opportunity to answer questions about how they and their peers are involved in local government issues such as voting, and their perception of how the day-to-day operations are run.
“I don’t know what our local government does,” said Drake Ott, a member of the student panel representing homeschooled students. “When I think of local government, I think of roads and ditches.”
Students on the panel described their views on local government and the voting process and most stated that the younger generation is not educated enough on local government.
Westville High School student Ashley Hardesty agreed there is a lack of local government interaction with students. “In Westville, we don’t really hear about the county government. It is mostly federal or state,” she said.
“Nobody really talks about county government. We are well versed in federal and state government. ... but I feel that we should get more involved in county government because that’s what affects our communities,” said New Prairie High School student Garret Gangloff.
LaPorte City Councilman Miles Fettinger described how during his campaign he visited approximately 4,000 homes asking residents to come out and vote. Fettinger said he received 300 votes and won the election out of an approximate total of roughly 500 votes, stressing the lack of community turnout.
Indiana state Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, who attended the conference, said he had recently visited an eighth-grade class and discussed local government and was surprised at the number of questions he received from students wanting to know more about the voting and political process in their area.
“I still receive emails to this day from some of those students asking me questions,” Pressel said.
After expressing their opinions to a crowd of city and county officials, students were hopeful that a plan will soon be put into action to educate young people on the importance of local government and voting.