Kids Voting USA fosters political enthusiasm

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    SCOTT BRADFOR

    Election officials say that because of the Kids Voting USA program, the voter turnout in Provo was greater Tuesday than it has been for any other election in years.

    Liz Tanner, a volunteer with Kids Voting USA, said the program was designed to teach youth about the importance of politics and the election process. Afterward, the students, grades K through 12, were given the opportunity to go to the polls with their parents to cast their votes for various candidates and issues.

    Tanner said 6,500 enthusiastic student came to vote. The Kids Vote results gave 65 percent of the votes to Dole in the presidential race. Leavitt recaptured the governorship with 76 percent, and Cannon won the congressional seat with 46 percent.

    Before the election, the students were taught basic political and electoral concepts and were introduced to current issues facing America, Tanner said. The students were then expected to communicate with their families about these events. The hopeful long-term effect of the program would be that as the children grow up, they will stay enthusiastic about politics and voting, Tanner said.

    Student body officers from Centennial Middle School conducted exit polls for student voters at Wasatch Elementary School. Almost all of the students polled thought that voting was very important.

    Scott Smith, a student from Centennial Middle School, said the program taught him a lot about political issues and candidates that he never knew before.

    “Before, I would have voted for just Republicans, but now I actually voted for two Democrats,” Smith said.

    Tanner said the Kids Vote USA in Provo has proven to be successful not only for the students, but for their parents.

    According to John Lewis, Chairman of the Board for the Utah chapter of Kids Voting USA, election volunteers at Franklin Elementary said that in the 10 years they had worked with elections in the Provo area, they had never seen this many voters come out for elections.

    Some volunteers said Tuesday’s turnout was double the number of people that had come out to vote in past elections.

    Since the parents had to take their children to the polls to vote, the adults were able to vote, too, Lewis said. Many parents even took their children to different locations than their own voting precinct to allow the kids to cast their ballots, he said.

    Janet Hall, a voting parent, said her son, Robert, studied the candidates and issues and attended mock conventions. Hall said the program completely enthralled her son with the election.

    “Robert didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but when I reminded him that today was election day, he flew out of that bed,” said Hall.

    Hall said through this program she learned that children really can be interested in what goes on in this country, and as the kids get excited, she gets excited.

    This program has meant a lot to many parents, said Hall. She said she saw one lady who wasn’t able to vote because she isn’t a citizen yet, in tears as she watched her son vote for the people and ideas he felt would be best for this nation.

    Hall said the children have also learned to accept other people despite their views. Many kids would vote differently, but after voting they were still friends.

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