Triangle Election Events Draw on Kids’ Natural Curiosity


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Photo courtesy of Kids Voting Durham

Did you vote in your city’s last council election? If you didn’t, you may be surprised to learn that your child may have cast a ballot through Kids Voting USA, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, voter education effort across the U.S.

Children understand the power of voting, says Carolyn Kreuger, director of Kids Voting Durham, a program of the Durham County Co-operative Extension. In the 2015 Durham city council election just 8 percent of adults showed up to vote, but 24 percent of Durham’s school-age kids cast their vote through Kids Voting, she says. “They get it instinctively — that this is important.”

Founded in 1988, Kids Voting USA works to create lifelong voting habits in children and to encourage greater adult voter turnout. When it comes to motivating adults, children are powerful, Kreuger says.

“I don’t think kids often realize how big an influence they are on their parents,” she says. “There is a reason I know all 251 Pokémon and what their powers are! It’s not because I was interested in it.”

But parents wield power, too, whether they realize it or not. “Parents often spend a lot of time knowing that they have to raise a healthy child — a child [who] goes to college and learns a lot,” Kreuger says. “But they often don’t realize their role in shaping a good citizen. The biggest indicator of whether a child will grow up to become an active voter is not race or income level or education, it is whether or not your parents were active voters and shared that with you.”

Debates and Discussions

With the national elections approaching in November, this is a perfect time to dive into discussions with your children about why voting matters and how it works, and to learn about the candidates and issues. Before Election Day on Nov. 8, Triangle venues are hosting events designed for children. Plus, this year, Durham Public Schools are closed on Nov. 8, providing an opportunity for children to head to the polls with their parents to watch the process in action and take part in Kids Voting, where it’s offered.

Recent changes in North Carolina’s controversial voter identification law, early voting and voter preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds (as of press time, preregistration had been reinstated) can spark vigorous family debates.

Illustration courtesy of Jennyz/Shutterstock.com

5 Ways Children and Teens Can Learn More

1. Contact your local affiliate of Kids Voting USA at kidsvotingusa.org to find out how your child’s school (public, private or charter) can participate in a Kids Voting election. Kids Voting offers a package of materials for teachers (and for parents who home-school), and children can opt to vote online or by paper ballot.

2. Take your child to a local election education event, such as:
Kids Voting Durham’s Youth Candidate Forum, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Holton Career & Resource Center at 401 N. Driver St. Adults can attend, but only students can ask questions of North Carolina state representatives.

Family Voting Celebration, 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Main Durham County Library at 300 N. Roxboro St. This family-friendly celebration celebrates “superheroes” of the Durham community with fun activities and kids voting, followed by a marching band-led parade to adult early voting.

• Family Election Event, noon-1:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 2, at Flyleaf Book at 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Raleigh. This family-friendly event features "Sadie McGrady Runs for President," a new picture book about a young girl who imagines her own campaign for U.S. president. Learn kid-friendly leadership tips from Sadie, design your own campaign buttons, find out who will be on the ballot in 2016 and more. Visit the League of Women Voters Orange/Durham/Chatham Counties' voter education table. Voters of all ages can register to vote, find out who's on the ballot in 2016, and get connected with non-partisan voting information via VOTE411. Learn more.

3. Encourage K-12 students to vote Oct. 24-Nov. 8 at precincts with Kids Voting stations, as well as online at sites that include kidsvotingdurham.org.

4. Volunteer with your child to run a Kids Voting station at your local precinct. Children younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent, teacher or group leader. Ages 16 and older can run their own stations. For more information, contact Carolyn Kreuger at info@kidsvotingdurham.org or 919-560-7321.

Photo courtesy of Kids Voting Durham

5. Visit the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh to see the “Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote: Photographs by Spider Martin” exhibit to help them appreciate the courage of those who marched in support of voting rights for black Americans. Admission is free and the exhibit runs through June 4, 2017. (Some images may not be appropriate for younger children.) Learn more.

PHOTOS BY SPIDER MARTIN, COURTESY OF BIRMINGHAM CIVIL RIGHTS INSTITUTE

More Resources

Visit these sites to find out where your teenager should register to vote; where you can go for early voting; to find out what the current voter identification requirements are; and to obtain voter resources for children, teens and college students.

Wake County Government: wakegov.com/elections/voters/pages/teenyouthinfo.aspx
Durham County Government: dconc.gov/government/departments-a-e/board-of-elections/facts-and-games-for-kids

Orange County Government: orangecountync.gov/departments/board_of_elections/index.php

North Carolina Board of Elections: ncsbe.gov

North Carolina Voter Registration Application: ncsbe.gov/voter-information/vr-form

Kids Voting Durham: kidsvotingdurham.org

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