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Column One: Students

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All 55,000 Minnesota high-school seniors next month will be encouraged to register to vote, under an effort sponsored by state officials and People for the American Way, which is based in Washington.

Under the "First Vote" project, which is financed by corporate donations, schools will receive curricular materials on voting, as well as registration forms students can mail in. Minnesota law allows any registered voter to register another voter.

"Minnesota ranks among the highest in voter turnout, but like the rest of the nation, people are participating less than they have in the past," said Secretary of State Joan Growe. "The group with the lowest participation rate are those 18 to 24."

"We decided to work to try to turn that around," she added. "We realize there's not one program to do that, but First Vote is one way."

Although next month's effort is the only statewide project of its kind, the Dade County, Fla., schools have conducted a similar effort for the past five years.

Some 45 "phantom" Boy Scout troops, with approximately 1,800 registered Scouts, have been dropped from the Los Angeles Area Council's roster following an internal and an independent audit.

The investigations, which also resulted in the firing of one employee and the resignation of another, stemmed from charges that the council had been padding its membership rosters to attract donations.

The audits found that 34 Scout units that participated in an after-class outreach program for inner-city youths had been ostensibly sponsored by a community organization that no longer existed. Another 11 units in the program apparently had not met in the past year, the audits found.

Council officials noted, however, that the majority of the 262 units with 8,484 registered Scouts in the after-school program functioned within guidelines. They said the audits concluded that the program, which uses paid leaders to introduce scouting to inner-city youths, provides an important service and should be continued.

Low-income young children, who often lack access to books, are being offered a chance to obtain reading materials, under a federally funded program started by the Baltimore County Public Library.

"Read Rover," a bookmobile, began last summer making the rounds of 80 day-care centers in the county.

In addition to providing books, the bookmobile staff members also engage the children in stories and encourage them to bring their parents to the library.--rr

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