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Civic education project has kids - and parents - voting.

Findings of a voter education project targeting youth indicate that the voting and political interests of children can have a direct impact on influencing adults to vote and become politically active.

Kids Voting, a non-profit project, began studying the voting relationship between children and their parents in 1988. Since then, statewide voting education campaigns have been established.

Through the projects, voting curricula are developed in schools and students learn about the American political system.

Students in grades kindergarten through 12, are informed about political issues and encouraged to debate on the issues and track political campaigns like the recent presidential election. Polls of the students' position and support of various political agendas are taken and compared with that of adults.

In cities that participate in the Kids Voting projects, the students accompany their parents at voting stations during local, state and national elections. On November 3, 1992 about 500,000 students across the country voted at 4,000 neighborhood polling precincts.

The projects show that 82 percent of the parents who were registered voters indicated their children initiated discussion at home about the elections and 40 percent stated they were better informed as voters due to their children's involvement in the project.

"Overwhelmingly, communicaties endorse Kids Voting as an opportunity to bring people together and reconnect them with their government, while instilling the value of citizenship in our children," said Kids Voting USA President and CEO Marilyn Evans.

The project was developed to increase the number of registered voters in the United States and encourage voters to exercise their voting rights. According to Kids Voting, 50 percent of eligible voters do not participate in presidential elections and 72 percent do not participate in local elections. Even the apparent surge in voters during the 1992 presidential election only netted a two percent increase.

The Kids Voting project is implemented by local Kids Voting organizations which are headed by civic and business leaders who seek to involve parents, schools and community volunteers.

A recent survey of parents whose children participate in the project shows that 91 percent of the parents said they were interested in elections and voting because of the Kids Voting projects.

"Kids Voting works this way. Beginning in kindergarten and through high school, students are given civic lessons about voting , enabling them to develop skills for becoming informed and making critical decisions. Then, on election day, if accompanied by an adult, the children are welcomed into the polls to cast ballots, voting on the same races and issues as the adults," said Evans.

In the long range, advocates of the Kids Voting projects hope to help children grow to become active participants in the political and voting system as adults. By learning to go to voting polls as early as in kindergarten, voting will no longer be a foreign experience for young adults and they will be more likely to begin voting when they turn 18. Instead, generations of informed voters will participate in local, state and national elections in greater numbers.

In 1992, the project reached 1.3 million students in 11 states. Students were assisted by 40,000 teachers and 25,000 volunteers. The projects took place in 20 cities. By 1994, Kids Voting hopes to include projects in 25 states.
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Title Annotation:Kids Voting USA
Author:Baker, Denise
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jul 19, 1993
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