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Election Days - Kids Vote!

Kids Voting

The Osgood File (CBS Radio Network: 11/10/97


Teaching kids about voting inspires parents to go to the polls.


    In 1987, three Arizona businessmen went to Costa Rica for a relaxing fishing trip and returned home with more than just fish. They came back with a plan to improve voter turnout in their own country. Inspired that Costa Ricans attribute their country's high voter turnout to a tradition of voting as a family, the businessmen set out to do something similar in America. Research shows that it's difficult, if not impossible to change voter behavior in adults, but they thought if they could just reach kids, the next generation would become a generation of voters.


    That was the start of Kids Voting, a national organization with a mission to provide schools with materials to teach kids about the democratic process. The program, which is now in 6,000 schools in more than 40 states, was designed to educate and motivate kids to vote in the future as adults. Participating teachers help students learn about political issues, elections and voting, and issues and candidates on the ballot in the next election.


    On Election Day, kids go to the polls with their parents, and cast their own ballots, in their own booths, on the same issues and candidates their parents are voting on.

Surprisingly, research shows Kids Voting has a "trickle up" effect on parents' voting behavior. Stanford Professor Steven Chaffee found that voter participation among parents whose kids participate in the program is five to 10 percent higher than parents of children who aren't exposed to Kids Voting. This percentage may seem small, but isn't insignificant. For instance, most mayors of American cities are elected by fewer than 20 percent of their city's voting population. In 1996, this five to 10 percent translated into more than 600,000 voters.



Public Agenda has non-partisan online guides to major public issues like health care, campaign finance, immigration, poverty, and the environment.


Project Vote Smart collects information about the stands and records of politicians. Their site includes candidate biographies, information about campaign finance, voting records, issue briefs, and more.


The League of Women Voters has information on elections and links to local, state, and national candidate information, as well as an archive of its publications on various public policy issues.


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