Mesa County one of two Kids Voting blocs in state
Mesa County has the longest-running Kids Voting program in Colorado.
Until Denver recently opened an affiliate, it was the only Kids Voting program in the state.
Martha Graf, executive director of Mesa County Kids Voting, attributes the program’s staying power to community support. Even as the statewide affiliate of Kids Voting USA fell apart a few years ago, the local Kids Voting board refused to give up and turned the Mesa County affiliate into a nonprofit organization. The group gets funding from a handful of charities, local businesses, the city of Grand Junction and School District 51.
Kids Voting Mesa County started handing kids a ballot during the 1996 presidential election. The ballots still are part of the program, although they are delivered online now.
But the program has grown to include helping kids become more aware of and involved in civics, Graf said. Teachers can use Kids Voting lessons to teach students what candidates stand for, what their jobs will be if elected and pros and cons of ballot measures.
“We try to make it as simple as possible,” Graf said. “Our goal is to be nonpartisan, fair and unbiased.”
Kids Voting also supports a Civics Task Force at Fruita Monument High School. The task force, new this year, consists of teens interested in politics who try to get other students interested in voting.
Sometimes, the Kids Voting ballots include extra questions about student-friendly topics such as text messaging, just to keep the ballot fun. Graf said it’s important to make voting appealing when kids are young so they will continue to vote as adults, which is the overarching goal of Kids Voting.
“Our goal is to help kids vote later in life as an informed voter and help them understand that civics happens year-round,” Graf said.
Kids Voting Mesa County reaches students in private and public schools and in home-school programs throughout the county. Results of this year’s vote will be posted online at 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 2.