Kids to pick president in mock voting |

Kids to pick president in mock voting

Ivy Vogel

This year, playing grown-up will take on a whole new meaning for Garfield County students.On Nov. 2, elementary, middle school and high school students in Roaring Fork School District Re-1, Garfield School District Re-2 and Garfield County School District 16 will follow adults to the polls to vote for president as part of the Three Rivers Kids Voting program.The Three Rivers Kids Voting program is a branch of the National Kids Voting program and was created to get kids excited about voting.A month before the election students of all ages learn about local and national issues and political candidates. When Election Day rolls around, kids go to the polls to cast their mock votes. Elementary students don’t vote on issues but use photographs to identify the candidates. High school students vote on candidates, as well as various issues in Garfield County. This is the first year Re-1 and Re-2 will participate in the program. District 16 has participated in Kids Vote for three years.”I’ll go to any lengths to make this successful,” said Richard Doran, director of the Three Rivers program.In order to make the vote run smoothly, representatives from each district met with Doran on Tuesday.For all students to be a part of Kids Vote, it’s important to recognize that more than 30 percent of students in the district don’t speak English, said Judy Haptonstall, assistant superintendent for Re-1. Although most Spanish-speaking students are legal citizens, many of their parents are not, said Sam Humphrey, director of curriculum and staff development for Re-2.”For these kids, mom and dad aren’t going to the polls,” Humphrey said. “They’re running as far away as possible.”Re-1 and Re-2 don’t have precincts in the school, so parents need to take their kids to a precinct. Humphrey is worried parents who aren’t citizens may be reluctant to go to the polls, and that would prevent their children from voting.”These are the kids we want to reach the most,” Humphrey said. “Someday they will be adults, and we want them to feel comfortable with the democratic process.”When adults can’t get to the voting precincts, they are issued absentee ballots. Like adults, students who can’t get to precincts will be issued absentee ballots. “Students who want an absentee ballot must give a valid reason for not going to the precinct,” Doran said. “I want the kids to be as responsible about voting as they can.”To encourage fairness and prevent problems, touchy issues affecting the school – such as voting for school board members and mill levies – will be excluded from the ballot. By mid-October a Kids Voting Guide will be published. High school students will write the guide, a simplified version of the voting guide distributed to voters. A Spanish version will also be available.To accommodate Spanish-speaking students, Kids Vote has CDs in Spanish that discuss candidates and issues.Prizes will be given to students participating in poster, essay and poetry contests relating to a specified election topic. High school students will be awarded by participating in the election. The grade with the highest voter turnout will be rewarded after the votes are tallied. “I want to make sure there aren’t any prizes at the polls,” said Rhonda Dillon, coordinator of curriculum and instruction for District 16. “We don’t want to pay the kids to vote. We want to reward them for participating.”Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.comProgram director soughtRichard Doran, founder of Kids Voting Garfield County, is seeking someone to replace him as affiliate director for Garfield County.Doran retired in 1997 and is now ready to fully retire. He’s looking for a person who is experienced with fund-raising and making program presentations to large groups.Organizational skills are also important.If you’re interested in the position, please contact Richard Doran at 285-9525.If you’re interested in the position, please contact Richard Doran at 285-9525.

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