TUPELO In Lee County, roughly 13 percent of registered voters casted ballots in June’s senate primaries. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann wants participation to top 50 percent. To achieve that goal, he is targeting the youth.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hosemann visited Lawhon Elementary and Tupelo Middle School to pitch “Promote the Vote” – a voter education program aimed at K-12 students that includes art and essay contests as well as mock elections.

“My goal is to get them to go vote in the future. We have an abysmal voting record. In the primaries we had like 13 percent in Lee County. It’s just abysmal,” Hosemann said. “I’m starting from the bottom up. Once I get them to vote in these mock elections, there’s a higher probability that they’ll vote in the future.”

The art contest “Colors of My Community” encourages students to conceptualize a mural that represents their dreams for their community. The essay contest “We have business to do” asks students to assess the current state of their hometown and suggest improvements through business opportunities. Winners will receive $100 and a visit to meet the governor in Jackson.

A mock election, which runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 26, will encourage students to study senate candidates and their policies before filling out a ballot identical to the authentic ones that will be used on election day in November.

“They’ll see the same ballot that we’ll have for Roger Wicker and Mike Espy and Cindy Hyde-Smith and others. We want them to cast the same ballot,” Hosemann said. “We want them to get interested in elections. We want them to start following the debate and then hopefully cast a ballot the rest of their lives.”

Hosemann spoke to three classes at Lawhon and two at Tupelo Middle along with state Sen. Chad McMahan, who noted that he was once a student in one of the classrooms they visited. For the politicians, Tuesday was a chance to connect with the future of the state.

“For me, today is invigorating. It makes what you do worthwhile to see these bright young faces and know they’re the future of Mississippi,” Hosemann said. “I’m just a temporary office holder. These are the people that will lead the state. I hope to leave it in a little bit of a better position than I found it. And I know they will.”

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