Students inaugurated into the voting process
Understanding the electoral process can be complicated enough for voters 18 and older. Getting the concepts boiled down to students as young as elementary school age can require some creativity.
Judging by a few students at Eudora West Elementary School, they're getting the hang of it.
Austin Merkel doesn't have to pause before spouting off the number of California's electoral votes -- 55 by the way.
And Katy Hadle understands why voting is important -- even as a fifth-grader.
"It gets me to where I can understand more of voting," she said. "It's not like when I turn 18 and I want to vote...like, 'Who do I want to vote for?'"
With the Kids Voting program, Eudora students are inaugurated into the electoral process through curricula in their classrooms, culminating with voting in their own special election. And teachers at various grade levels are using different approaches to reach students.
At Nottingham Elementary School, first-grade teacher Rebekah Paxson said that meant discussing the qualities of a good president rather than delving into the candidates themselves. She said it also meant representing the candidates through their photos.
She said the school "registered" its young voters and had a special practice-run election Monday. However, students were still encouraged to vote with their parents Tuesday at the polls. One goal of Kids Voting is to get parents to the polls by taking their children to vote in the Kids Voting election.
And so far in Douglas County, that was working, said manager David Morrissey of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center in Lawrence, which gathered volunteers for the event. Morrissey said that as the program caught on in communities throughout the state, more working parents were showing up at the polls.
Eudora West Elementary School had its own pre-election, too. Fifth-grade teacher Holly Bohardt said the fifth-grade classrooms had decorated voting booths in each classroom.
She said the fifth-graders worked on a two-and-a-half-week Kids Voting unit during which they cleared up a lot of misconceptions about voting. Bohardt said the students were surprised that presidents had to be born in the United States but that they didn't have to be college graduates. The students also unlocked the mysteries of the electoral college.
Bohardt said the fifth-graders were old enough to delve into some issues with education being the most important to them. They also researched some of the candidates in the upcoming election.
"They can see they're real people," Bohardt said.
Fifth-graders Matthew Gadberry and Hadle said it was important for a president to have a good rapport with children "so they know what they're going through."
At Eudora Middle School, social studies teacher Kathy Cox said partisan issues were better addressed at the high school level.
"They need to learn the basics," Cox said. "It's easy when you look at president and vice president."
But looking at other races can get complicated.
"I think that's true of all voters," Cox said.
Instead, her students looked at sample ballots and understood what responsibilities came with different offices. Her students also made posters giving reasons why it was important to vote and placed them around the school.
In a poll, Cox said she asked her students to pretend they were 18 and asked if they were going to vote. Some said yes, and some said no.
"I'm hoping this will encourage students to take an interest," Cox said.
Although students showed up Tuesday at the polls, their votes were only of consequence in the special Kids Voting election. Some statewide results appear on Page 5A.
Even though Gadberry and his classmates wrote letters to the governor about why kids should be allowed to vote, he wasn't sure having their votes tallied in the grown-ups election would be such a good idea.
"Most don't know who to vote for," he said. "They choose anyone who's taller."