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January 11. 2013 10:08PM

Raymond middle-schoolers prepare voter ID arguments

RAYMOND - As local elections approach, middle school students are busy working on their own interpretations of the state debate over voter identification.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students were invited by the Raymond Voter Information Project to submit essays either for or against the new state law.

Mike Chouinard, acting principal at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, said the law may not immediately affect students, but it could in the future.

He said the more students learn now about the election process, the better prepared they will be to take on that responsibility when the time comes.

Teacher Mary Fosher said the contest is a good entry into civics, and providing information to students will help them make more informed and intelligent choices.

And students had plenty of questions, many of them specific to voter registration, during a recent presentation about the essay contest at the middle school.

Two winning student essays, one on each side of the issue, will be published in the Raymond VIP voter information guide, which is mailed to every household in Raymond before the March elections. The winning essays will also be read aloud at the school deliberative session on Saturday, Feb. 9.

In addition to the middle school writing challenge, the Raymond Voter Information Project offers a fall speaker program and publishes a voter's guide ahead of the March elections that seeks to provide unbiased and detailed information about warrant articles voters will see on the ballot. Each issue is vetted by members of Raymond VIP and presented in a format that presents reasons to vote yes or no.

This year's fall speaker program featured town officials talking about the state's new voter identification law, which requires voters to present photo identification or sign a voter challenge affidavit in order to receive a ballot at the polls.

Raymond VIP board member Carolyn Matthews said she hopes the students' essays will inspire voters to look at both sides of any issue.

In November, Raymond VIP was awarded a $3,500 community grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to support strategic planning to promote and sustain citizen involvement in Raymond VIP.

Matthews said the group's primary goal is to build an active membership qualified to participate in each phase of its editorial process, from reporter to citizen reader to editorial committee member.

"Every Raymond VIP member promotes nonpartisan support for voter participation," Matthews said.



gmacalaster@newstote.com


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