Five-year-old Scott Bregman, with the strings of two powder blue Kids Voting balloons tied around his head, showed his Election Day spirit Tuesday night by repeating a singsong chant: Clinton-Gore! Clinton-Gore! Clinton-Gore!
His brother Jeff, 9, was diligently paying attention to the television screen in front of them. He was using red, blue and brown markers to indicate on a United State map which candidate won the popular vote in each state.
The brothers, along with hundreds of other Lawrence students, attended an Election Watch party at the Lawrence High School cafeteria. The party concluded the Kids Voting Kansas program, a first-time pilot project to encourage solid voting habits by allowing kindergartners through high school seniors to go to the polls.
Scott and Jeff, both Deerfield Elementary School students, said they voted for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. Scott's reason was simple: "Because he says what I want to hear," he said, mentioning specifically that Clinton wouldn't raise taxes.
Jeff said he watched all the debates. "I really didn't think Bush could do all the things that this country needed," he said.
Jeff said he thought the Kids Voting program influenced voter turnout in the general election. "I think it will raise the turnout on voters because the kids have parents and it makes the parents have to vote," he said.
STUDENTS from all three Lawrence junior high schools were in Topeka election night at Clinton, Bush and Perot headquarters to help announce Kids Voting tallies, said Melissa Masoner, state project director for the program. Thursday, Woodlawn School students will be among those attending a Kids Voting Kansas ceremony with Gov. Joan Finney in Topeka, at which the governor is to present certificates of appreciation to participating school districts.
At Lawrence High School on Tuesday night, students stood in line for free pizza for as long as some voters stood in line to vote. They gathered around three television screens as they ate. The scene was typical for adolescents, but their conversations weren't: They talked a lot about the federal deficit, the economy, education and other national issues.
Twyla Blackbird, a 17-year-old senior at Lawrence High School, stood up and waved a Clinton/Gore sign when a picture of Clinton came on the television screen. She wore a button of Bill and Hillary Clinton on her T-shirt, which said "What's the best term to describe George Bush?" in blue on the front and "ONE TERM" in large red letters on the back. She changed T-shirts four times during the day to show her overwhelming support for Clinton and Gore.
Blackbird said she was glad the Kids Voting program would give her a voice in the election.
"THERE'S a voice for all of us," Blackbird said. "Maybe the politicians can see how we're thinking so maybe they can take us into consideration more."
Blackbird said some LHS students didn't vote in the Kids Voting drive because they knew the votes wouldn't count in the general election, but she thought it was important for students to choose a candidate. "Kids Voting really motivated a lot of kids to choose and help their parents to choose," she said.
She said she would vote in the future, and that the close attention she paid to the campaigns in this election would help her know what to look for in future candidates.
Sarah Finney, who was 15 days too young to vote in the general election, voted for Clinton in the Kids Voting drive. She said the results of the Kids Voting ballots weren't as important as involving young people in the process.
"I think it's good because it makes kids see that it's not that hard to vote," she said.