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Archive for Thursday, September 26, 2002

Voting habit

September 26, 2002

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Nonvoters give away their government to those who care enough to vote.

There's no better way to establish a lifelong habit than to start teaching it at a young age.

Impressing young people with the importance of actively participating in the democratic process is one goal of the Kids Voting program. Another is to subtly let the children involved teach their parents the same lesson.

Kids Voting is a nonpartisan program sponsored by the Journal-World in cooperation with The Roger Hill Volunteer Center and school districts throughout Douglas County. This is the 10th year for the program, which allows youngsters to cast ballots at special tables set up at official polling places.

They get to cast their votes and have them counted in a special countywide tally. In many schools, Kids Voting is the impetus for classroom lessons that inform children about the voting process and even about specific candidates who will be on the ballot.

Organizers also hope that more adult participation in elections will be a byproduct of Kids Voting. Parents who have been convinced by their children to go to the polls so the children can participate in Kids Voting just might be more likely to participate in the real balloting themselves. It sets a good example for the children and might help establish a new habit for the adults.

In Wednesday's Journal-World, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh noted some of the reasons  or excuses  potential voters give for not going to the polls. They are disenchanted with politicians, they say, and one vote isn't enough to make a difference.

Voters who are disenchanted with candidates and officeholders have little chance of improving the situation if they don't go to the polls. If they want better people in office, they need to educate themselves about campaign issues and support candidates who share their views.

And there is almost no weaker excuse than to say my one vote doesn't make a difference. Kansas had an extremely disappointing turnout in the August primary. There were no hot races to draw Democrats to the polls, but the 26 percent turnout in the primary still was a little shocking in such a strongly Republican state.

A decision not to vote simply turns your government over to whatever segment of the population can get its voters to the polls. The lower the turnout, the easier it is for small special-interest groups to have a decisive impact on the election outcome. When the voter total goes down, the ideological split among those voters doesn't usually remain the same. The votes of people who feel strongly enough about certain issues or candidates to go to the polls count for more because it takes fewer votes to sway the outcome. The nonvoters become an underclass that is at the mercy of the voting elite.

Kids Voting is one way to try to nurture the voting habit among both children and adults. It's a good program that the Journal-World is proud to support. We believe in the privilege and responsibility of voting, and this probably won't be the last time between now and Nov. 5 that we urge you to take advantage of that right.

Whether you have children or not, someone you know will be watching when you walk into the polls or walk away with an "I Voted" sticker on your lapel. Set a good example by getting to know the candidates and voting for the ones you want to support.

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