Kids Voting scores record turnout

Kids Voting Mesa County had its largest turnout ever this year with 17,061 students casting a ballot in the private nonprofit group’s mock election.

Public, private and home-school students from across Mesa County are invited to participate in Kids Voting during each election season. Students cast ballots online, mostly on school computers, during the early voting period for Colorado adults Oct. 22 through Nov. 2.

Students from all grades participate, although younger students have a simplified ballot. All students could vote on the presidential race, while third- through 12th-graders could vote on the House District 55 race and middle and high school students could weigh in on the Third Congressional District contest.

Nearly 53 percent of students voted for Mitt Romney for president and 43 percent voted for Barack Obama, with the remaining 4 percent of votes going to a variety of third-party candidates. Students also gave more votes to third-party candidates than their legally voting elders this year in the District 3 race, where unaffiliated candidate Tisha Casida captured 37 percent of the vote, compared to 34 percent for Republican Scott Tipton, 18 percent for Democrat Sal Pace, and 10 percent for Libertarian Gregory Gilman. Libertarian Virgil Fenn got 20 percent of the student vote in District 55, compared to 43 percent for Republican Ray Scott and 37 percent for Democrat Dan Robinson.

Kids Voting Mesa County Executive Director Martha Graf said she thinks it’s “fascinating” young voters strayed from party lines more frequently than adults in this election. She said that trend likely owed to lessons that Kids Voting provided to teachers to pair with the ballots.

Lessons varied by grade level but most older students received a voting guide and a list of six topics. The list included each candidate’s stance on the topics but did not reveal which candidates matched the stances until the end of the list.

“In a lot of cases they found they didn’t agree with any one person on every topic,” Graf said.

Graf and fellow Kids Voting staff members and board members selected three issue questions for students as well. Kids Voting tries to match issue questions to measures on adult ballots, but Graf said that was difficult this year with some of the three amendment topics in this election being hard for children to understand.

Instead, Kids Voting ballots asked kindergarten through fifth-grade students if public school students should be required to wear school uniforms (students voted against the measure nearly two to one) and asked high school students if there should be a maximum amount of money candidates should be allowed to spend on a campaign, a measure that won with 62 percent of the vote.

Third- through 12th-graders in Plateau Valley School District 50 were asked to weigh in on their district’s mill levy override measure, 3A. It passed 70 percent to 30 percent.

With the election complete, Graf said Kids Voting will now shift focus to fundraising and preparation for Grand Junction’s municipal election on April 2.


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