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Turning voter apathy around in West Virginia

When it comes to voter apathy, we have no short supply here in West Virginia.

The Mountain State ranks 44th in the nation in voter participation; only 47 percent of eligible voters in the state participate in elections. About 400,000 West Virginians aren't even registered to vote.

But Secretary of State Joe Manchin is hoping that his office's voter education program will help turn those numbers around. And he's off to darned good start.

Manchin was in Clarksburg recently to present the Jennings Randolph Award to Liberty High School for its work in getting students registered to vote. Last year, the high school was able to get an amazing 100 percent of its 2001 senior class to register to vote prior to graduation in June. Only six other schools in West Virginia received the award.

The secretary of state noted that if all of the state's eligible 22,000 high school seniors voted, it would turn the political system "upside down."

In presenting the award, Manchin, quoting Abraham Lincoln, said that the "ballot is stronger than the bullet."

In light of changes we are facing in today's world, those words are perhaps more important than ever.

It is for that reason that we commend not only Secretary of State Joe Manchin, but the students of Liberty High School for rising to meet his challenge.

Kevin S. Courtney

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