Archive for Friday, October 10, 2014

Douglas County Kids Voting project expects changes to produce larger turnout

October 10, 2014

While politicians are feverishly working to get their messages out to Democrats, Republicans and independents, some election workers are focusing on slightly different voters: grade school, middle school and high school students.

Kids voting sites in Baldwin City

<p>Baldwin Primary Center 500 Lawrence ST, Baldwin TBD</p> <p>Baldwin Intermediate Center 100 Bullpup Dr, Baldwin 12:00 - 2:00</p> <p>Baldwin Junior High School 400 Eisenhower, Baldwin TBD</p>

Leaders with Kids Voting of Douglas County are spreading the word that big changes are on tap for the Kids Voting program that will take place during the Nov. 4 election. For the first time in Douglas County, the program will have polling places inside the schools. Previously, the program was set up alongside the official polling places spread throughout the county. The new system will allow students to vote during school hours rather than the few hours before or after school.

“We think it should make it a lot more convenient for students to vote,” said Ruthi Rapp, co-chair of the organizing committee for the program.

During the last November general election, the program tallied votes from about 3,800 kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Rapp said it was difficult to predict how much voter turnout may be with students during this election, but she said it could be significant because all 28 grade schools, middle schools and high schools in the county have agreed to host a polling booth and set aside time for students to vote.

Many of the schools also are using curriculum from the national Kids Voting USA organization in the weeks leading up to the election. Rapp said the curriculum teaches students about the voter registration process, basic lessons about democracy and exercises to encourage civic engagement.

The youngest students vote a simple ballot that includes just the race for governor. Many of the grade school students have ballots that include the governor’s race and the race for U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. More positions are added to the ballot as the age of students increases. High school students have the opportunity to vote for everything on the official ballot provided to registered voters.

“We hope that this helps them learn that there are lots of things on the ballot that they need to be familiar with before they go to the ballot box,” Rapp said. “We also hope this takes the fear out of voting. We think people are more likely to vote, if they have practiced it.”

The student votes are counted by volunteers who gather at the project’s headquarters in the former Riverfront Mall building in downtown Lawrence. The results of those votes will be announced on election night.

Rapp said the organization always is in need of volunteers for both the counting process and to staff the polling stations at the school. People who want more information about volunteering can contact volunteer coordinator Joni Hughes at jonihughes@sunflower.com or go to

VolunteerDouglasCounty.org.

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