LOWELL — Lowell High School senior Antigone Wilson hasn’t voted yet, but she’s helping her classmates register.
The 18-year-old has volunteered as a poll worker and written letters to legislators, but this May will be her first opportunity to cast a ballot. And, working with the Lake County chapter of March For Our Lives, Wilson wants as many of her classmates as possible to know they can vote this spring, too.
That’s why Wilson, along with half a dozen other Lowell upperclassmen, organized the school’s first March For Our Lives voter registration drive Wednesday morning.
“Some people only vote for the general election when they see presidents,” Wilson said. “So getting people out there to vote in May when it’s for the town officials that really make a difference in the community is worth it.”
Wilson is one of the founding members of the March For Our Lives — Lake County — the local chapter for a national student-driven movement grown in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018.
With the help of their faculty adviser, English teacher Joseph Gianotti, the Lowell students sent emails to all juniors and seniors in their school informing them of the upcoming voter registration drive. Anyone who will be 18 or older by the Nov. 5 general municipal election is eligible.
Wilson, who served as a poll worker at a St. John precinct in last November’s midterm elections, said she was surprised by how many potential voters were turned away simply because they hadn’t registered properly.
Using their student laptops, the March For Our Lives volunteers helped their classmates navigate through Indiana’s online voter registration website.
One by one, she and the March For Our Lives volunteers asked their classmates if they were registered and if they were aware of the upcoming May 7 municipal primary election. Lowell has multiple town council positions on the ballot this spring.
“One thing we’re trying to emphasize is how important it is to register in times like the local primaries, because some people don’t even know that those exist,” Lowell junior Lauren Cruz said. “Even though they’re smaller offices, they still play a really important role in some of our local laws.”
By the end of the day, the group had registered nearly two dozen of their classmates.
Cruz said she has been especially inspired to help carry March For Our Lives' message after a student was accused this spring of bringing a gun to school. The situation was investigated and handled without incident, but Cruz said the event forced her to consider what might happen if things played out differently.
“We wanted to make sure this wouldn’t happen anywhere else, and it wouldn’t happen here,” Cruz said. “It would be almost irresponsible to not get involved and to just be passive.”
The voter registration drive comes just weeks after the local March For Our Lives chapter received its national affiliation. The group received approval in February from the national organization, which provided t-shirts and hats for Wednesday’s event.
Loving the merch that @AMarch4OurLives sent us !! Just in time for our voter registration drive TOMORROW from 10:00-11:30 a.m. in the Lowell Senior High School library. Come and register to vote or check your registration status !! 🗳 📋👥 #Vote #MarchforOurLives #MFOL pic.twitter.com/1YigBQVS75— March For Our Lives - Lake County, IN (@MFOL_LakeCounty) April 2, 2019
March For Our Lives - Lake County is one of two official Indiana chapters, the other being in Terre Haute. Cruz said the Lowell students have been meeting informally since shortly before Christmas break and, prior to the voter registration drive, has organized a letter-writing campaign to contact U.S. senators.
Now, Cruz said the group is looking to expand out to other Lake County high schools.
“Some people think what we do just doesn't have any impact,” Cruz said.
“Our goal right now isn’t to take over the country and make all these new laws. It’s just to get people informed no matter how they’re voting, just to make sure they’re voting with the right sentiment in mind.”
Despite the organization’s emphasis on gun reform, the students said their goal Wednesday was simply to encourage other students to register, develop informed opinions and vote, regardless of political affiliation.
“I want people to know their vote makes a difference,” Lowell senior Josh Reeder said. “Right now if you just vote for town officials, then you’ll make a difference in the town. That’s how you can have your say in our county, by voting.”
State voter registration closes Monday. Indiana citizens can visit indianavoters.in.gov to register for the first time or update voter registration.