Getting Out the Vote: Madeline Feiock

Florida has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, and those rates are especially low among young people. Recent Leon High School graduate Madeline Feiock devoted her senior year to changing that. A year earlier, Madeline had been completing a project on public policy. Her research showed that most young people in Florida were not even registered to vote … and an idea began to take shape. Floridians can pre-register starting at age 16, which automatically makes them eligible to vote when they turn 18. Madeline wondered why more students were not taking advantage of this opportunity. She noticed that, although the registration forms were available during student body elections and in certain government classes, many students lacked the time or the information to complete the forms.

“I wanted to make sure that every student was provided the opportunity to take the first step toward voting,” says Madeline.

She drafted a resolution calling for one school day each semester to be devoted to pre-registering students. First, she gained the support of the Leon High School student council, then the local and state branches of the Florida Association of Student Councils. With her resolution approved by the students, Madeline realized that the project could go even farther. She added Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley and Superintendent Rocky Hanna to her team and brought the proposal before the Leon County School Board. They voted unanimously to adopt the resolution. Madeline’s efforts continue to gain traction in Florida, as students and school boards across the state consider the benefits of this two-day registration drive. Since 2018, voter turnout among Floridians ages 18-24 has been on the rise, but it is still below 30%, far lower than any other age group. From a school project to a personal passion, Madeline’s push to increase pre-registration is making a difference. In 2020, she won the Girls Can Do Anything Award, presented by the Oasis Center for Women and Girls as part of the 2020 Trailblazer Awards, and the top prize, a $1500 scholarship, in the Public Speaking category at the Leon County 15th Annual Best and Brightest Awards. Madeline takes her inspiration not from celebrities or famous activists, but rather from “ordinary individuals who do extraordinary things.” She cites a close friend, Marshal Fisher, whose courage in his fight against pediatric cancer taught her to live in the moment, and Stanley Rozycki, whom she met for another class project. Rozycki shared his involvement in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and taught her to stand up for what you believe in, even when it is unpopular. As she experiences first-hand the slow process of democracy, Madeline also reports being inspired by public servants, “who put themselves out there, open to criticism, but with the goal of trying to change public policy.” Madeline will enroll at Florida State University for the fall of 2020 with the goal of becoming a nursing practitioner or nurse anesthetist. She is committed to continuing a life of service to her community, and she encourages all NEXT readers to register or pre-register to vote.

Ready to register? As of 2017, eligible Floridians can register to vote online. Go to registertovoteflorida.gov with your Florida driver’s license or state-issued ID card. The process takes less than 10 minutes. You can also print a registration form from the same website and submit in person or by mail to the Supervisor of Elections for your county.

To be eligible, you must be: • a citizen of the United States of America, • a legal resident of Florida, • a legal resident of the county in which you are registering, and • at least 16 (to pre-register) or 18 (to register). During the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters may feel safer voting in the 2020 General Election by mail. Any registered voter may request a mail-in ballot at least 10 days prior to Election Day (Nov. 3). Call your county Supervisor of Elections office or visit their website. You’ll just need your legal address and date of birth.

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