While state and county election workers across the country are gearing up for the official election Nov. 6, organizers of the Douglas County Kids Voting USA project are almost set to go.
Nearly 10,000 ballots have been printed in anticipation of a heavy turnout. They even have a large supply of ballot boxes that have been retired by the Douglas County clerk’s office.
What they still need, though, are about 300 volunteers to staff the 48 polling places that will be used on Election Day.
“To make Kids Voting work in a community takes far more than just teachers and families,” said Ruthi Rapp, co-chairwoman of the Douglas County project. “It takes the hard work, support and assistance of many community businesses, organizations and individuals.”
Kids Voting USA is a national, nonprofit educational project that seeks to get students at all grade levels involved in civic life and ready to become educated, engaged citizens. The mission is to increase lifelong voter participation by involving students in the voting process.
On Election Day, students in grades K-12 can go with adults to official polling places to cast their ballots. Separate voting booths are set up for the kids, and different versions of the ballots are available, depending on the student’s age.
For example, younger students only vote for president or governor depending on the election year. As the students mature and study more about various candidates and issues, additional choices are included on the ballot. Ballots for high school students include every item offered on the official adult ballots, all the way down to this year’s ballot question about property taxes on boats.
But Election Day is only one part of Kids Voting. The project also involves classroom activities leading up to the election, as well as activities to encourage family dialogue.
According to information on the national organization’s website, Kids Voting has a positive, long-term effect on civic participation among students. The organization cites independent research showing students exposed to the curriculum pay more attention to the news, engage in more discussion about civic affairs with their family and friends, and are more likely to get involved in political activity or volunteer in their community.
Lawrence was among the first pilot sites when the Kids Voting USA project began in 1992. In 2000, the local project expanded to include Eudora, and in 2004 it added the Baldwin City area. The project went countywide in 2006, adding the rural townships outside of the incorporated cities.
Anyone wanting to volunteer may sign up online through the Roger Hill Volunteer Center website, VolunteerDouglasCounty.org. Click on “find a volunteer opportunity” and scroll down to the Kids Voting logo.
Adults, as well as high school juniors and seniors, can volunteer as poll workers for the Kids Voting balloting. Shifts on Election Day are about two and a half hours long, running from 6:45 a.m. to 9 a.m., 2:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Volunteers will also go through a training session at either 4 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Kids Voting headquarters on the second floor of the Riverfront Plaza, Sixth and New Hampshire streets.