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Archive for Saturday, April 15, 1995

KIDS VOTING PROGRAM ATTRACTS PARENTSTOO

April 15, 1995

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A program encouraging kids to vote also helps get more parents to the polls, according to a study.

Call it civic responsibility or just plain pressure, but children are prompting more and more parents to vote in national elections, according to a voting study.

The state chapter of Kids Voting USA recently compared the state's total voter turnout rate with those from communities where schoolchildren were allowed to cast unofficial ballots at official polling places.

And guess what? In the 16 communities where kids voted, turnout was up 3.3 percent since 1990, compared to 1.4 percent statewide.

Ruthi Rapp, coordinator for the project in the Lawrence school district, said 300 volunteers helped put together the Kids Voting system in Lawrence for November's elections. The Journal-World also is a local sponsor for the project.

"Parents were excited about how this helped them talk to their children about the election. Suddenly, kids wanted their opinions on issues," said Rapp, who also is social studies coordinator for the district. "People are enthusiastic. Parents are talking to their kids, and kids think their parents are brilliant after all."

In 1994, 43,421 kindergartners through 12th graders in Kansas voted through the program, and organizers hope to attract 135,000 student voters in 65 communities for the 1996 presidential election.

The group's research confirms that more parents are drawn into the voting booth because of their children's interest, Rapp said. In some comparable counties that didn't participate in the Kansas program, voter turnout has dropped since 1990.

Surveys conducted by the organization also indicate that children had an effect on parents hitting the polls:

  • 5 percent of parents surveyed said they would not have voted had their children not been involved in Kids Voting.
  • 11 percent of parents and volunteers said Kids Voting was a factor in their decisions to vote.
  • 43 percent of parents said they became better-educated voters themselves, thanks to their students' participation in the program.

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