BY Heather Haen Anderson – Connecting with kids
My first voting story occurred when I was 18 years old. I worked for my dad that summer, and one day, right before lunch, he took me to the polls for a primary vote. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but it was expected that I would vote the same way he did. I did, in fact, vote for the same party he did, but I knew very little about what I was doing. I didn’t know what the candidates stood for, or indeed, who any of them were.
Contrast that story to four years ago, on the afternoon of Nov. 4, when a little girl around 8 years old was overheard talking to her mother. “Some of my classmates had to vote with absentee ballots,” she explained.
Later that day, a second grader being picked up from daycare told her dad that they had to hurry home so she could change into fancier clothes before they went to the polls to vote.
All of those stories came courtesy of the first Kids Voting Edina.
Kids Voting Edina has returned for this election and is intended to promote the importance of voting and civic awareness among students. In the weeks leading up to the election, teachers for grades kindergarten through ninth grade will focus on preparing students for the polls. Classrooms will be busy with hands-on activities and critical thinking lessons that will teach students about the democratic process. All children in Edina will then be invited to accompany their parent or guardian to their polling sites on election night between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., where students will vote for the same candidates and issues as adults. The Kids Voting Edina ballot will include the races for president, state and federal senators, state and national representatives, as well as for the mayor and Edina City Council. The two Minnesota Constitutional questions will also be on the ballot. In fact, just about the only difference between the official ballot and the student’s ballots will be the pictures of the candidates on the Kids Voting ballots. Though not part of the official results, student votes will be tallied and reported at schools and by the media.
By guiding students through the real-life voting process, Kids Voting Edina hopes to generate an enthusiasm for voting and civic engagement that will extends into adulthood. According to research, communities that have participated in Kids Voting projects have increased overall voter turnout by 3 to 5 percent. In young adults who have grown up with Kids Voting, there is an astounding voter turnout increase of up to 15 percent.
This year’s Kids Voting Edina takes place 4-8 p.m., on Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 6, at each of the 20 precincts in the city. Take your children to vote so they can put into practice what they learned in class. Or so you can share with them your political values. Or so that they have their own voting story to experience.
Oh, and don’t forget to vote while you’re there!
Heather Haen Anderson is executive director of Connecting With Kids.