RALEIGH — Most were too young to vote, but teenagers from around the state got a quick course in government and community service Saturday at an event encouraging civic involvement.
Girl Scouts-North Carolina Pines, an umbrella group for scout troops in Eastern North Carolina, hosted Rally the Vote, Voices of Teens Emerging. Boys and Girls clubs, 4-H clubs, Boy Scouts and other youth groups were invited.
The aim was to "get them excited about the political process and teach them that it is both their right and responsibility as a citizen," said Rusine Mitchell Sinclair, Girl Scout council CEO.
The News & Observer was one of about two dozen sponsors.
Hundreds of teenagers from around the state spent their morning in Meymandi Concert Hall hearing about how participatory democracy works. They watched short recorded messages from the three candidates for governor and got to fill out fake ballots; the straight party ticket choices were Carolina and N.C. State.
They were encouraged to work at polling places, tell family and friends to register to vote, and volunteer in their communities.
Many of the attendees had at least a passing interest in the races, and some had political aspirations themselves.
A civics and economics class got 15-year-old Nicole Mathis of Wake Forest interested in politics.
"I think there should be a woman in top office one day," Nicole said. And she would like to be it.
In the meantime, she is focused on environmental issues, the nation's financial crisis and getting her older sister, Mallory, to register.
Two of the politicians who spoke, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, told the teens that this election reminded them of the 1960 presidential race between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
"That was one of the most dramatic elections," said Orr, a high school freshman at the time. "Perhaps this year rivals that."
Orr, who ran in the GOP primary for governor, advised the teens to learn about the candidates and "view ads with a certain degree of skepticism."
But the ads have turned heads.
"I know McCain and Obama are really at it," said Joshua Frazier, 14, of Rocky Mount. Frazier said he was happy to cast a ballot Saturday, even if it was just practice.
"In four years," he said, "I want to be able to vote for the next president."
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