Before they can go to the polls on Nov. 3, students in Lawrence's Kids Voting program must do what's required of all other voters: They have to register.
And with the registration deadline for adults coming up at 9 p.m. Monday, most teachers whose classes are participating in the program were registering their students this week.
Teachers say registration is just one way to make the students' mock voting experience parallel what they'll encounter as adults.
Lawrence students from 10 elementary schools, Lawrence High School and all three junior high schools are participating in Kids Voting and will vote on Election Day. Although the votes of students under the age of 18 won't be counted in the official totals, the votes will be tabulated and analyzed.
Wayne Kruse, a second-grade teacher at Centennial School, said he's stressing to students that voting involves more than just marking a box.
"I think the kids need to understand that you don't just go and vote. You have to think about what you're voting on," Kruse said.
This week, Kruse's class voted on which snack they would prefer, a chocolate cookie or a cinnamon cookie. Second-grader Jessi Young said he and his fellow students considered which snack would be healthier before making their choice.
"WE TALKED about which ones were sweeter, and the chocolate cookies were sweeter, so we voted for cinnamon," Jessi explained.
Carol Armstrong, a sixth-grade teacher at Schwegler School, said that in preparation for the presidential election she had her students break into groups and decide on five important qualities for a president.
Sixth-grader Michael Day said two things that topped the list were "how much experience they have in politics and their honesty."
Also, Armstrong said, "For the past two weeks, I have been asking my children to vote on a different issue every day."
One vote concerned what hours of the day they would like to have school. Another vote concerned what students thought was the most important issue facing voters.
Armstrong said that before registering a student to vote, parents were required to sign a sheet saying they would accompany the student to the polls. Or, if the parents weren't planning to vote, they could indicate that they were arranging for another adult to accompany the student to the polls.
DOUGLAS County District Clerk Patty Jaimes said the Kids Voting program could result in a markedly higher adult voter turnout this year.
Jaimes said many people have called or stopped by to make sure they're registered to vote, saying they want to make sure they can accompany their children to the polls and vote along with them.
Jaimes said this morning that 43,541 people have registered to vote in the county and that several hundred more registration cards have yet to be processed. In the 1988 presidential election, 40,574 county residents were registered to vote.
Also as part of Kids Voting, students will participate in the candidates forum to be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Lawrence City Hall. Sponsored by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's Government Communications Task Force, the forum will involve candidates for the Kansas Legislature.
Just as a panel of adults will ask questions for the candidates, a panel of students will be allowed to ask questions as well.