Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor speaks Thursday afternoon to introduce her non-partisan initiative, called "Speak Out Arizona!"

J.D. Fitzgerald/The Explorer

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke to local business leaders Thursday as she launched a voter engagement initiative in Pima County.

The nonpartisan initiative, "Speak Out Arizona," sponsored by the O'Connor House and chaired by Elva Coor is designed to motivate local organizations to promote civic engagement.

Mara Aspinall, President of Ventana Medical Systems, discussed plans to promote voter registration and participation to employees.

"We are recognized as a leader in Arizona and  we are recognized as a leader in the world," Aspinall said.

A new voter registration booth for employees is one way Ventana is making it easier for employees to register and vote.

"As a leader in the community, we take that very seriously," Aspinall said.

David Hutchens, President of UNS Energy/Tucson Electric Power, also spoke.

"At TEP, part of orientation is a voter registration form," he said.

Hutchens listed three parts of the voter engagement process.

Registration is only the first step, he said. Two is making sure that people are informed.

Hutchens spoke about recent county supervisor forums for TEP employees.

The next question, Hutchens said, is how you get it out to the broader community.

In 2008, Arizona ranked 46th in voter registration.

The goal of the statewide initiative is to bring Arizona from the bottom 10 percent to a top ten state in voter registration.

"We have to improve that. We can improve that," O'Connor said, "I know we can."

Other local businesses and organizations have their own plans for voter engagement.

The Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona  are creating a Get Out the Vote badge.

Jim Click Automotive Team will offer Voter Registration to employees and customers.

O'Connor's sister, Ann Day, of the Pima County Supervisor in District 1 asked the high-court justice to talk about iCivics, an effort by teachers and game designers, brought together to improve early civic education.

"I thought the need was quite acute," she said.

O'Connor said that Baylor University conducted a study about the website with positive results.

"Kids learn a remarkable amount and retain it," she said.

In nationwide polls, Arizona continues to be one of the worst states when it comes to voter turnout.

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