by Ralph Edwards –
Hundreds of students and Lynn residents attended the annual North Shore Community College Fit and Fun Health Fair earlier this month. More than fifty community agencies provided health information and demonstrations (karate, Latin dancing, Zumba, and more) as well as hand and back massages, blood pressure and bone density tests, and lots of giveaways. Additionally, students 18 years old and older were able to register to vote.
Dylan Benson, a NSCC student who helped organize the voter registration effort, said, “Many students are juggling family, work, and classes and forget to register. Some recently turned 18 or changed addresses, or just never registered before. Some have recently become citizens! Helping them to register also helps them be better citizens.”
The anniversary of the Selma March and the 1965 Voting Rights Act was influential with some students and volunteers. Julie Dorsey, whose son, Austin, is a NSCC student, was surprised at the level of student awareness of Civil Rights history. “Several students that I spoke with said that they didn’t see how voting made a difference or that all politicians are the same and so they didn’t care to register”, she said. “As gently as I could, when I could; I sat down with them to put voting in perspective – Fannie Lou Hammer, MLK, and getting local and statewide elected officials to respond to you and your community.” Most of the time, the student decided to register, she reported. “I hope they vote; it’s responsible citizenship!” she concluded.
Jim Walsh, Chair of the Nahant Democratic Town Committee, has volunteered at the health fair for the past three years. “Voter registration is always non-partisan. You cannot wear any political paraphernalia and certainly not promote a political party. But it is particularly gratifying for me to engage kids going to a State school because, more than 50 years ago, a State college gave me an extra chance in life for which I have always been grateful.”
Voter registration drives are fairly routine on the North Shore, often conducted by civic, political, and educational groups. Prospective voters complete a registration form with contact information, unique identifiers, and a sworn statement to their eligibility and the veracity of the information. Usually, within two or three weeks, they are notified of their acquisition of the franchise and are eligible to vote in upcoming elections. Any American citizen, 18 years old or older can register to vote at Lynn City Hall.