Start ‘em young: Students get props for early voter registration

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AURORA | Josh Rasp can’t vote yet — he’s only 17 years old. But he’s registered and ready, and so are 85 percent of his senior classmates at Eaglecrest High School in Arapahoe County.

At his school’s homecoming rally in September, amid cheering for the school’s varsity volleyball, golf and football teams, Rasp received the 2016 Eliza Pickrell Routt Award for Outstanding Voter Registration Efforts from the Colorado Secretary of State. Routt was the wife of Colorado’s first governor, and the first registered woman voter in the state.

Rasp received the award as a result of his work with nonprofit Inspire Colorado — which focuses on get-out-the-vote efforts with high school students — in preregistering his peers.

Rasp said he became interested in helping out with the effort when a representative from Inspire Colorado visited his government class two years ago.

“A high percentage of young people aren’t getting their voices heard,” he said.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State, September preregistration figures show 33,345 Colorado teenagers participating in the program. Of that, 56 percent are unaffiliated, 22 percent are Republicans and 20 percent are Democrats. The rest belong to minor parties.

These preregistered voters leaning slightly Republican is ever-so-slightly in contrast to the rest of Colorado voters who will be casting a ballot this year: October data from the Secretary of State shows Colorado has 5,901 more active Democratic voters than Republicans this year. Young, preregistered voters are, however, like the majority of Colorado voters in that they largely identify as unaffiliated.

So far, Rasp said he’s in the “undecided” category for how he would vote — if he could cast a ballot in this year’s election.

“It’s an interesting election for sure. We have two of the most interesting candidates. Two very different candidates, different from what I’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” he said.

Since 2013, young people who turn 16 but will not be 18 by the date of the next election have been allowed to preregister to vote under the state’s election laws.

Colorado is seeing a record number of voters this year, with the highest percentage of voter registration in the country at 87 percent of the eligible population, according to the Pew Center on the States.

Yuma High School, on Colorado’s eastern plains, also received an award from the Secretary of State’s office for registering 85 percent of its senior class to vote.