'A fundamental right' - Bysiewicz, in Milford, encourages youths to get involved in democracy

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

MILFORD — Those who should have the most interest in the future tend to have the least say in it, a statistic that is concerning to Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.

Bysiewicz came to Milford Friday to encourage young people to become more active in the voting and democratic process. Only about 20 percent of 20-year-olds vote, Bysiewicz said, compared to 80 percent of 80-year-olds.

“We want our students to participate and vote in every election, but we also want them to think about being part of public service, whether it’s running for the local town council or board of aldermen, whether it’s running for the state legislature, mayor, congress or some other office,” Bysiewicz said.

Speaking in front of Jonathan Law High School, Bysiewicz discussed the purpose of the 2020 Connecticut Student Mock Election, a nonpartisan, educational program designed to introduce and educate students about the voting process. The mock election is open to all high school juniors and seniors in the state and runs through Oct. 30. Nearly 60 school districts and 5,000 students across the state signed up to participate.

Bysiewicz said the goal of the mock election was to start young people off on the right foot.

“As they’re studying civics in high school, they’ll have the opportunity to put forward a mock voter registration form and then vote for the president online,” she said.

She said considering it’s so close to the national election, she hopes students will talk to their parents about voting. She also encouraged high school students to become interested in participating in every election in their future.

School Superintendent Anna Cutaia said Milford Public Schools has a vision for all its learners, from preschool through twelfth grade.

“We want all our learners to be global citizens, to think and act beyond self towards service to others and to their community,” Cutaia said. “We also see this as an incredible opportunity to engage in a fundamental exercise in democracy, and as a school system, we feel so passionate about this because we believe engaging in the right to vote is an important cornerstone in our districts work toward equity and social justice for all.”

Bysiewicz said young people have led the way at every important moment in the country’s history, including opposition to the Vietnam War, and lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. She also brought up the recent Black Lives Matter movement, which is another youth driven initiative, she said.

“So, we’re excited to see how young people are participating,” Bysiewicz said. “We’d love to see more of it.”

Mayor Benjamin Blake said voting is a “fundamental right.”

“It supports and protects all of the other rights that we hold dear in our democracy,” Blake said. “As we’re all working towards universal ballot access, we are doing everything we can to make sure that everyone votes, and everyone is at the polls.”

Blake also spoke about the celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage.

“Just 100 years ago, more than 50 percent of our nation did not have the ability to vote, didn’t really have a voice in our great society, and we are still working for a more perfect union each and every day,” Blake said. “There are still fundamental rights that we are working towards, and still civil rights that we are working towards.”