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Indie group registers SLHS students to vote

Susan Hahn shows Saranac Lake High School senior Ben Munn how to fill out a voter registration form at the school Thursday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — Over two days, Stephanie Gubelin and other volunteers had gotten 38 students at the Saranac Lake High School registered to vote. They were looking to get a few more Thursday morning.

“That’s 38 registrations out of about 180 students that are eligible,” Gubelin said. “That’s the best turnout we’ve had with any of our events, bar none, and that includes at farmers markets and colleges.”

She said it feels great to have a younger generation getting registered.

“I kind of fantasize about a trickle and then a flood of new voter registrations coming into the Board of Elections,” she said. “I hope that it will say to our elected officials that our younger generation is here, paying attention and ready to hold them accountable.”

Even if students are not yet 18, they can still preregister to vote once they turn 16. Preregistering at 16 isn’t a nationally recognized process and exists in only 14 states. New York joined that group last year.

Gubelin says she doesn’t represent any particular political group or party affiliation. Her goal is just to register voters, not influence their votes, she said.

“We want this to be totally non-partisan, and as soon as you say you’re with any group, it automatically brings down a bit of a curtain in front of people’s faces,” she said. “We wanted to make voting accessible to absolutely everybody that’s eligible.”

Gubelin started her efforts in 2018, and the 2016 election motivated her. She said voting is both an individual and a group effort to make democracy work.

“I was dismayed by the number of people who stayed home and decided to sit out of the whole process,” she said. “I feel that there are more good-willed people in the world than not, and if they can express their wishes, I think that will really help our society.”

Gubelin and her fellow volunteers don’t have a name yet, but said she has been considering “Adirondack Votes.”

It’s a state Regents exam week, so those without tests scheduled at that time can stay home. The hallways weren’t packed with students that morning. But senior Ben Munn grabbed a registration form on his way out of the school.

“This is an election year, so that’s definitely an important reason to register,” he said.

SLHS senior Rosemary Crowley was there volunteering. She said she wanted to get involved after Gubelin spoke during her Organization of American States class, a model U.N.-like course that covers politics, social issues and economics.

“I think that it’s really important to vote and that not enough people are doing it,” she said.

Crowley said the environment is an important topic for her going into this year’s presidential election.

“Especially living in the Adirondacks, it’s really important to protect it,” she said.

Crowley is the daughter of Enterprise Managing Editor Peter Crowley.

Susan Hahn, who was also getting students registered, said the group is gaining traction and the Lake Placid Middle-High School has expressed interest in their effort.