Anyone interested in volunteering to help with Kids Voting Douglas County activities may contact Lori Johns at the Roger Hill Volunteer Center, at 865-5030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a county where voter turnout can struggle to reach 50 percent, organizers of a youth voting program are striving for a full 100 percent turnout among people who make their education program go.
Kids Voting Douglas County is on the lookout for more than 400 volunteers, who together will operate about 60 polling sites, gather piles of materials and post election results Nov. 2, as an estimated 4,000 youths cast their unofficial ballots for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Kansas governor, and other offices and issues up for election.
While the votes won’t officially “count,” they certainly will make a difference in the years ahead, said Ruthi Rapp, organizer of Kids Voting Douglas County. Overall voter turnout typically ticks up by 2 to 3 percentage points in communities where Kids Voting programs operate.
Among the 18- to 24-year-old demographic, numbers typically rise by 20 to 25 percentage points, as kids who learned how to vote at a young age follow through by casting actual ballots as adults.
“It can make an enormous difference,” Rapp said.
And volunteers make it all happen.
Each polling place needs about six volunteers, who together cover three shifts: 6:45 a.m. to 9 a.m., 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Such on-site assistance puts a fresh face on democracy for volunteers, who often can’t help but leave their Kids Voting polls with a new outlook on the process.
“I hear it from some of my friends: ‘The kids’ votes don’t count, why waste your time?’” said Scott Criqui, who helps kids vote at Pinckney School. “But it’s fun. Seeing a kid and how much it means to him to put a check mark next to the person he think is qualified … it just helps renew hope in our community.
“It doesn’t have to be so cynical. It doesn’t have to be so divisive. It’s refreshing to see that voting can be an enjoyable activity, even when it ‘doesn’t matter.’”
Phil Bradley, who has helped organize and volunteer with Kids Voting, enjoys the enthusiasm kids bring and the commitment they show when they arrive at the polls. The kids learn about candidates and issues in class at school, then often do their own research before reaching decisions and following through on Election Day.
“It’s wonderful to see the kids, and how honest they are about it,” said Bradley, who regularly deals with elected officials as CEO of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Association. “It helps restore my faith in our whole republic.”
Jamie Shew, Douglas County clerk, is busy lining up 400 to 500 workers of his own to oversee and operate the county’s official 65 polling places for Nov. 2. He’s also encouraging people to sign up to help with Kids Voting, an effort that can only help improve the democratic process and youngsters’ participation in it.
Shew “voted” at school in 1980 as a fourth-grader, and it’s something he’ll never forget.
“This is a huge opportunity for people and organizations to get involved, and really do a service that works for the kids,” Shew said.