Linden High School social studies teacher Rob Mangel held a voter registration drive for students the week of May 7 to 11. He signed up 47 students and continues to promote registration in school. 

My Voice My Vote sign

By Gary Miller

Social studies teacher Rob Mangel didn’t want to take no for an answer. One after another, he flagged down Linden High School students and urged them to register to vote.

“Hey, are you 17? Are you an American citizen? Then register to vote!” he said over and over.

Mangel set up his voter registration drive in the school lobby every day after school for the week of May 7 to 11. His hard work was rewarded: 47 students who are 17 and older registered to vote.

“The reality is that the lowest turnout in terms of percentages is always the 18 to 25 age group,” he said. “So nationwide trying to get young people politically engaged is tough.”

Mangel has tried for a few years to get student to register, but he wasn’t having a lot of luck because he teaches mostly underclassmen.

But this year, schools across the state are taking part in a voter registration campaign coordinated by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and New Jersey Social Studies Supervisors Association.

When Social Studies Supervisor Gregory Grasso heard about the movement, he thought Mangel should be the one to organize a drive.

students at registration drive

Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi applauded Mangel’s efforts.

“Registering to vote allows students to put everything they’ve learned in social studies class into practice,” he said. “Great work by Mr. Mangel in teaching our students how to be good citizens, active in our nation’s democracy. Voting is not just a right, but a responsibility, and it’s wonderful to see our students learning to shoulder that responsibility.”

Every student who registered got a wristband saying #MyVoiceMyVoteNJ.

“The idea is to remind students that as they get older, they can actively help shape the things that they care about,” Mangel said. “So if we can get that into their heads early, we can help them become habitual voters. Because they’re the largest generation in America.”

Though the after-school drive is over, Mangel said he will continue to promote voter registration in school and has registration forms available in his classroom. They are also available at the Union County website.

“All people have to do is print it out, fill it out, fold and drop it in a mailbox,” he said.

The recent wave of student activism following a deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., helped spur the voter-registration movement.

“We’re trying to let them know that, yes, protesting is good, but that the most effective way to make changes is at the ballot box,” Mangel said. “There are people in office from every party who are not listening to the young people because young people don’t vote. And if young people come out in force …”

He trailed off as he spotted another potential voter: “Hey, are you 17?”

teacher talking to student at voter registration drive