Kids cast ballots of their own

Posted 11/4/08

Just because Tyler Watkins is 8 years old doesn’t mean his voice wasn’t heard in this year’s election. Along with every other Highland …

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Kids cast ballots of their own


Just because Tyler Watkins is 8 years old doesn’t mean his voice wasn’t heard in this year’s election. Along with every other Highland Elementary School student, he cast his vote for president and a number of ballot issues.

The questions posed to the kids did have a slightly different edge.

For one, the presidential ticket included not just Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama but also a choice for Mickey Mouse to be the next president, with Donald Duck second in command.

That’s who 8-year-old Kai Krizman voted for, summing up the voting process in one word — fun.

“Overall, they’re taking it pretty seriously,” said librarian Gretchen Platt. “They’ve been discussing the issues after they voted, walking down the hallway saying, ‘I think health care is more important.’ We didn’t think that would happen.”

Like their parents, the students had several ballot questions to vote on, including whether a tax of 5 cents should be charged for overdue library books and whether students goofing off in hallways during class should lose 5 minutes of recess.

Votes were tallied with a computerized system. Students held remote controls and voted for A, B or C on each question. As votes came in, lights popped up on a computer screen, corresponding to the number for each clicker. Students received immediate results of the winner within their class, but just like in real elections the vote of each individual was kept private. Each precinct — or class — voted separately, with the final results revealed Wednesday morning.

Of course, there was a lesson behind the fun. Students learned that when one candidate receives many more votes than the other it’s called a landslide, and that when one candidate receives all the votes it’s a unanimous decision, or “umaminous” as one girl yelled out.

When asked to vote on whether the government should concentrate spending money on health care, education or the environment, volunteer Traci Bilek explained that there was no right answer to the question.

In the past few weeks students have learned more basic facts about the government, too, like who the candidates are, who can vote, and what groups of people have not always had the right to vote in this country.

“It’s good the kids were able to actually (vote), because they’ve been learning about voting,” Bilek said.

“They can go home to their parents now and say, ‘I know how you vote — with a clicker,’” Principal Deb March said with a laugh.

The idea to let students in on the voting process came from parents. They developed the ballot questions and helped ‘man the polls.’

“(Parents) wanted to give kids the experience, especially with the voting going on here,” Platt said, referencing the real polls set up just outside the school’s library.

Like many of the Election Day polls the student results were close for president, with only a three-vote spread between the Republican and Democrat candidates after all but one class had voted. Of course, the Mickey/Goofy ticket had taken close to one-third of the votes.


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