Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Becoming Part of the Solution Voting - The Focus of 2004 Civics Month

November 2004 will be a time when the American people decide the course of the future on the local, state, and national levels through exercising one of their most basic civic duties: VOTING. In celebration of the right to vote and in recognition of the grave responsibility that accompanies that right, Georgia's Office of the Secretary of State (SOS) has named October Civics Month. The SOS Office has partnered with organizations such as the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Public Broadcasting, the Youth Leadership Institute of the University of Virginia, and the Georgia Project for Active Civic Education (Georgia PACE), to develop resources to support Georgia students and teachers as they explore the meaning of civics during Civics Month:

* Secretary of State's Office - Providing the official Civics Month website, including articles, primary resources, materials, lesson plans, activities, and Mock Election information for students - lesson plans and other resources also provided by the Georgia Council for the Social Studies and Georgia PACE
* Department of Education - Providing links to lesson plans, resources, and activities
* Georgia Public Broadcasting - Providing video content designed to support the teaching of civics and government courses in the classroom to be aired via satellite and via the Internet
* Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) - Conducting the online voting for the 2004 Mock Election
* Georgia PACE - Providing student input on ballot questions and debate questions as well as recruiting student leaders from each school to assist teachers with the Civics Month activities and the Mock Election

Many of these resources, such as the web and video components, will be available to Georgia students and teachers not only during Civics Month, but also throughout the school year.

As part of the Civics Month events, the Capitol Education Center will host a special debate between three college students representing the Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties at 11 AM on October 13. The debate will cover current issues of particular interest to students, and will be held in front of an audience of high school students from area schools. If you are interested in having up to two of your students attend the debate, please contact Stephanie Caywood at scaywood@sos.state.ga.us; please secure permission from both your school Principal and the parents of each student before submitting their names. The debate will be monitored by a local journalist, but the questions asked of the debaters will come from a special panel of high school journalists who represent the interests of Georgia students across the state. Georgia Public Broadcasting will air the debates LIVE via satellite on Channel 430 and the Internet at www.gpb.org/peachstar so that students across the state can benefit from the discussion.

Once your students have had the opportunity to hear all sides of the issues through the debate, they will have the chance to participate in the 2004 Mock Election, which will allow them to vote for such offices as President of the United States, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Congressperson. This year, Georgia students will be able to cast their votes directly online, making Georgia the first state outside of YLI's home state of Virginia to participate in the Mock Election on a statewide scale. In order for your students to vote in the Mock Election, your school must register its participation in advance by visiting the Civics Month website at www.sos.state.ga.us/civics_month and clicking on the link that says voting registration. Note that multiple teachers from the same school may register individually and submit classroom totals rather than school-wide totals. Teachers planning to participate with your classes should register as early as possible so that you can receive special classroom materials. Students may vote online from Monday, October 18 until Thursday, October 28th at 7 PM. Results from the Mock Election will be available October 29th at 8 AM, allowing students to see the impact of their participation in the voting process.

Teachers are encouraged to give extra credit for students who go to the polls with their parents on Election Day to witness the official voting process firsthand. Students aged 12 and under may accompany any adult-aged voter. Students who are aged 13-15 may accompany a parent or guardian only. Be sure that your students aged 16 and 17 know that they can become part of the process by working at the polls on Election Day.

Join the Office of the Secretary of State and Georgia Public Broadcasting in celebrating Civics Month and remind your students that by joining in the democratic process, they have the power to change the future for the better.