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Kids Voting ... It's red, white and you

October 25, 1998

Kids voting programBy JENNIFER LAM

photos: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Ever wonder what really happens at the polls during election days?

This year, instead of munching on your cold cereal while watching your parents pull out of the driveway, go with them and vote yourself.

Thanks to Kids Voting, a nationally recognized program that engages the parents and students in the democratic process, you can participate.

--cont. from lifestyle youth--

The project is modeled after a program in Costa Rica, the country with the highest voter turnout of any Western democracy.

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Students learn about candidates and issues, discuss the topics at home, and then accompany their parents to the polling site on election day to vote on the same issues and candidates.

Kids voting programMaryland initiated its Kids Voting project in 1994 in Harford County, and Allegheny Power brought the program to Washington County in 1996. That year, 9,000 students cast their votes, according to Carolyn Shaw, Kids Voting chairperson.

Goals of the project are to educate children on the voting process, to promote voter participation and to improve citizen involvement by preparing future generations to participate in their governments.

More than 50 percent of eligible citizens do not participate in the presidential elections, 70 percent do not participate in local elections, and only 52 percent of those ages 18 to 24 are registered to vote, the lowest of any age group, according to Kids Voting USA.

The unique thing about this project is that it is a community-based program that encourages families and schools to get involved, says Shaw, who is Allegheny Power's manager for state governmental affairs in Maryland.

Parents are encouraged to discuss the election process with their children. In the classroom, kids incorporate all aspects of democracy into their daily lessons.

In history class, they may learn about the background of the democratic process. In music class, they may learn about patriotic songs and their significance. In art class, students may design posters, buttons and other campaign materials. In math class, they may look at statistics and campaign budgets.

So on Nov. 3, instead of camping out and watching MTV, go and immerse yourself in the wonders of democracy and see your government at work.

Jennifer Lam is a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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