Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has a unique opportunity to participate in a program called “Kids Voting,” which provides students in kindergarten through 12th grade the privilege of voting in their own special election at specific polling sites across Jefferson County.
The Winn Center on the Seminary campus has been a polling site for two Louisville precincts for many years.
Children who are accompanied by a parent or guardian may cast their own “kids voting” ballots at any of the participating precincts or at the same participating places where their parents vote.
“This is an important educational tool for kids,” says Stephanie Sorge, the Seminary’s student body president who is coordinating volunteer support on the campus. “The opportunity teaches children the importance of civic participation, and it also increases adult voter turnout because kids will bring their parents out to vote!”
The grassroots, one-of-a-kind Kids Voting program was established in 1991 in Arizona, the brain child of three Arizona businessmen, who were vacationing in Costa Rica. They were astounded to learn that in Costa Rica a 90% voter turnout was commonplace and attributed to a tradition of youths going to the polls with their parents.
According to statistics on Louisville’s Kids Voting website (www.kidsvotinglouisville.org), only 39% of the voting-age public cast ballots in the general election in 1994. In 1996, 48.6% of the voting-age public cast ballots for the president, but only 30% of 18-24 year olds had voted. The general election of 1998 saw a voter turnout of 37%.
The site also reports that Kids Voting communities see adult voter turnout increase between 5% and 10%, and they credit the nationwide program as a factor in the decision of at least 600,000 adults to vote in 1996.
Dorothy S. Ridings, a past president of the League of Women Voters of the United States (1982-86), is active in growing the Kids Voting program in Jefferson County and hopes Louisville Seminary will become a regular participant in the program each year there are elections.
“It is a marvelous way to introduce young children to the heart of democracy—voting—since it is both a right and a responsibility in our governance system,” said Ridings, who also serves as chair of Louisville Seminary’s Board of Trustees.
“In the classroom, kids discuss the upcoming election and, we hope, take that information home to make it a family experience. Then the kids go to the polls with their parents on Election Day and vote in their own election in selected races and on ballot issues. It's a wonderful way to make voting not so scary and to underscore the importance of citizen participation in determining how we want our government to be run. I think it is terrific that the Louisville Seminary community is contributing to this important civic education for our children and their families,” she said.
Currently, there are about 45 Kids Voting sites in Jefferson County, covering almost 100 of the county's approximately 250 precincts.
The strength of the Kids Voting program is volunteerism. Friends of Louisville Seminary can support this opportunity by staffing the Kids Voting table at Louisville Seminary. Contact Ms. Sorge, via email, to reserve your place.