Our View: Let the kids lead us in voting
The goal is lofty. And important.
It’s to “help young people discover the importance of elections and the power of their votes in our democracy,” the office of Secretary of State Steve Simon declared on its webpage, referring to Minnesota’s inaugural Students Vote 2016, a statewide mock election for president this fall with high school students casting the ballots.
“High school students (will) get hands-on experience with the electoral process,” the secretary of state’s office said. “It gives young Minnesotans a sense of the responsibility and power they will soon hold.”
Give the secretary of state’s office credit for generating interest in the initiative. More than 250 Minnesota high schools and secondary schools are signed up to participate, including Denfeld, Marshall and East high schools in Duluth and at least 11 others from Northeastern Minnesota. Other schools can still sign up. There’s a link at sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/get-involved/students-vote/.
Under the initiative, students will vote on or before Tuesday, Oct. 25. The participating schools can each decide exactly when, where, and how to vote. Results are expected to be available by Nov. 1.
It’s common for mock elections to be held ahead of an Election Day, Simon’s office explained.
“This allows students the chance to weigh in before adults do and puts a spotlight on their engagement,” the office said. “After Election Day, everyone’s focus — parents, students and the broader community — shifts to the actual Election Day outcome, which can drown out the student experience.”
On the actual Election Day in Duluth, there’ll be a second opportunity for kids to get engaged in this year’s races, further encouraging future civic participation. Kids Voting is back. Unlike the secretary of state’s initiative, Kids Voting participants cast ballots in all the races. Originally launched in 1994, the Duluth program returns after a five- or six-year hiatus, allowing all children under 18 to cast ballots alongside their parents.
Whether it’s the parents bringing their children to the polls or the other way around, Kids Voting succeeds.
“Both of these are going to be really valuable programs to inform kids about the elections and to encourage them to take part,” Tom Albright, the civic engagement coordinator for the Duluth school district, said in an interview yesterday with the News Tribune Opinion page.
“From the schools’ perspective, it’s an outstanding opportunity to talk about not only who the candidates are but what it means to vote and the importance of voting and the (women’s) suffrage movement and how voting has changed over the years in the U.S. and who is allowed to vote and more,” Albright said. “Part of what we hope is kids will be able to see the results of their voting. Even if it’s not the lead story on election night, hopefully they’ll be able to see the result of their voice and that their voice and vote matter.”
Familiarizing kids with voting and making voting a natural and expected activity can pay off with more citizens becoming involved in our democracy and more of us making decisions — which can result in better decisions. A more-engaged citizenry is a better watchdog of our leaders.
Those all may be lofty goals, but efforts in Minnesota and here in Duluth encouragingly are in place to meet them — with kids leading the way.
To learn more
For more information about Minnesota Students Vote 2016, go to: sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/get-involved/students-vote/
Northeastern Minnesota schools participating in the statewide mock presidential election known as Minnesota Students Vote 2016 include:
Cook County Senior High School, Grand Marais
Denfeld High School, Duluth
East High School, Duluth
Eveleth-Gilbert Senior High School
Floodwood Secondary School
Grand Rapids Senior High School
Hermantown Senior High School
Hibbing High School
Littlefork-Big Falls Secondary School
Marshall School, Duluth
Memorial High School, Ely
Mesabi East Secondary School, Aurora
Northeast Range Secondary School, Babbitt
Northland Learning Center, Virginia
To be part of Kids Voting in Duluth
To volunteer at a polling place in Duluth on Election Day, Nov. 8, for Kids Voting, contact city of Duluth Volunteer Coordinator Cheryl Skafte at email@example.com or at 730-4334. Kids Voting is a Duluth effort to urge kids under 18 to cast ballots at their polling places. Its sponsors include the city, YMCA, League of Women Voters Duluth, the Duluth school district, Duluth Edison schools and Marshall Schools.