THS student is state’s millionth electronically registered voter

ALABASTER – On Jan. 22, two days after his 18th birthday, Thompson High School senior Thomas Damsgard made the decision to register to vote using the state’s electronic registration service. Little did he know that he was the state’s one millionth person to do so.

On Monday, Feb. 3, he was recognized by the Office of the Secretary of State during an assembly at THS in front of his peers. After learning that the electronic service had surpassed 1 million registered voters, Secretary of State John Merrill said he thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the milestone by recognizing the millionth person to register.

Damsgard said he was in English class when he missed a call from the Office of the Secretary of State. Soon his mother began calling and trying to get in touch with him.

“When I first heard the news, I didn’t really believe what was happening,” he said. “But overall this has been a cool experience.”

Damsgard said registering to vote is something he always knew he would do when he turned 18 because he’s always had an interest in government and is eager to vote in his first presidential election.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Damsgard said in regard to educating himself about those running for president this year. “There’s so much knowledge to take in.”

Merrill said he was excited to hear that the one millionth person was a high school student.

“It’s outstanding,” Merrill said. “Our young voters are aware of the online and mobile app options and hopefully they’re sharing it with their classmates.”

Alabaster City Schools Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said he’s proud of Damsgard for deciding to exercise his right to vote.

“To have this recognition is neat, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that it happened to be a THS student,” Vickers said with a smile. “Hopefully this assembly has inspired other students to register to vote.”

THS principal Dr. Wesley Hester said events like this can change the perspective and perception of young people when it comes to voting.

“Pushing the online and mobile app components makes it easier and really hits the bullseye with younger generations,” Hester said.

Merrill said his efforts to increase the number of citizens who participate in the voting process has been intentional. In 2015, he launched a multimillion dollar campaign that included using mobile units to visit each of the state’s 67 counties at least once a year. He said he typically ends up completing about 100 visits annually.

The mobile unit allows Merrill and his staff to register voters and provide photo IDs. Over the years, his campaign has enlisted the help of celebrities with ties to Alabama such as college football coaches Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn, boxer Deontay Wilder, former NBA player Charles Barkley, former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, former Miss Alabama Jessica Proctor, radio personalities Rick and Bubba, and singers Taylor Hicks and Jamey Johnson.

Merrill has set state records with 1.4 million new voters registered, 1.5 million electronically registered voters and 3.5 million registered voters statewide. The online voter registration system was introduced by Merrill in 2016.

In addition to visiting Alabamavotes.gov and the mobile app “Vote for Alabama,” Alabamians are able to register to vote by visiting their local board of registrars or the Office of the Secretary of State.

Those who would like to vote in the primary election on March 3 must be registered to vote by Feb. 17.