A Lawrence community task force Thursday began developing its game plan for getting Lawrence school children and their parents out to vote in the Nov. 3 general election.
Lawrence is one of five Kansas communities participating in Kids Voting Kansas, a program that aims to develop good voting habits in U.S. citizens at an early age. Although the votes of students under 18 won't count in the official totals, those votes will be tabulated by volunteers on election night.
The Kids Voting program has developed a special curriculum for teachers to present to students to prepare them for the election. That curriculum takes in students from kindergarten through grade 12, and seven local elementary schools, South Junior High and Lawrence High will be involved in the program. Other schools also may be included.
However, the Lawrence's Kids Voting Community Task Force will coordinate activities outside the classroom to promote the program. About 20 task force members met at South Junior High on Thursday to begin planning for those efforts, such as developing special events to put school children in touch with local candidates, training volunteers to run the voting booths for student voters at local polling places and promoting adult voter registration.
Task force coordinator is Dolph Simons III, operations manager of the Journal-World, which is a major sponsor of Kids Voting.
PHILIP Bradley, assistant coordinator of the task force, said he was pleased with Thursday night's meeting, where the group did a lot of brainstorming and people volunteered to serve on certain committees.
"I'm pleased that we're now into an action mode," Bradley said, adding that the task force members offered "some extremely creative and wonderful ideas" for getting the whole community behind the movement.
Task force member Marguerite Carlson said she would like to see senior citizens visiting schools to tell students about the experience of voting. After all, Carlson said, "The population that votes is the older adults."
Another suggestion was to hold a candidate forum where school children would ask questions of local candidates. And as for running the student voting booths, which will be located at the regular polling locations, it was suggested that adult precinct "captains" could supervise high school students who have been trained to run the student polls.
THOSE students probably would work the precincts only before and after school, meaning that others in the community would be needed to help run the polls as well.
As for the cost of the program, Sally Shaw-Besthorn, task force consultant, said such things as printing the student ballots, making duplications of the school curriculum for teachers and constructing the voting booths would be handled by the state-level coordinators of Kids Voting Kansas.
However, she said, the Lawrence task force might have to do some fund-raising for any special local activities it wishes to coordinate.
MEMBERS OF Lawrence's Kids Voting Community Task Force are Simons, Bradley, Carlson, Linda Herbel, Steve Johnson, Ed Brunt, Tim Bengtson, Mike Kautsch, Judy Wright, Kathryn Price, Brad Garlinghouse, Jean Cowles, Margie Eaton, Paul Stuewe, John Peck, Diana Rhodes, Marion Springer, Nancy Ares, Mary Miller, Cynthia Peters, Charles Becker, Bob Taylor, Lanaea Heine and Ruthi Rapp. Louise Silber, Douglas County Democratic chairman, has said she would help with voter registration.
The task force has five committees to work on different aspects of the Kid Voting effort. The committees and their chairs are: public relations, Dolph Simons III; special events, Judy Wright; elections-poll volunteers, chair not yet named; voter registration, Nancy Ares and Mary Miller and finance, Charles Becker. Committee members will be recruiting other community residents to help with the effort. Each of the committees will be meeting sometime before the end of July.