Getting a jump-start on the political process

Published 02/19 2014 10:46AM

Updated 02/19 2014 10:58AM

ILLINOIS -- The deadline to register to vote in the March primary is Tuesday at midnight. This time around, a new class of voters is getting a chance to weigh in; 17-year olds. WCIA-3's Steve Staeger finds out how many took advantage of the new law.

About ten registered in Macon County; 65 in Champaign County and 100 in Sangamon County. One of the state's newest voters is from Clinton.

"I'm still an American citizen, and to me, the most important duty I have is to make sure my government is the best it can be for me, fighting for my interests, making sure this is a land of opportunity for everyone."

Kaelan Smith has felt that way for years now. But, he's never been able to fulfill that duty until now.

"I fully believe that every single American, no matter what, has an interest in their government and they do have a voice in how it should be run."

Kaelan is 17-years old, but he'll still be able to vote in next month's primary. That's because he'll be 18-years old in time for the General Election in November.

It's part of a new law passed by the General Assembly last year. It allowed Kaelan to rush to the DeWitt County Clerk's Office on January 2. He was the first of three 17-year olds registered there. And, he has a lot to vote for, like his future.

"I am definitely concerned about the economy. I believe hugely that the government needs to do its best to help lower student loan debt, so that more students can go out to college, get their college education and then go out and get a career."

Kaelan has been actively involved in politics for about five years. He knows all his local legislators and they know him. He hopes his peers will catch on to his example.

"I think young people are just tired of the bickering and the partisanship that goes on and they just want leaders who want to find solutions to our problems."

Kaelan says his classmates may not know it, but they have a lot to vote for too; things like the future of healthcare, minimum wage and education funding. They're all things which will impact so many young adults sooner than they might realize.

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