As millions of adults are flooding the polls on the second Tuesday in November, millions of children will be doing the same thing.
During each presidential election, children in schools across the country cast their vote to see who they believe should be the next president of the United States. These mock elections are an opportunity for students to learn about the election process and get involved in a much-anticipated event that has been consuming the rest of the country for more than a year leading up to Election Day.
The drive to prepare America’s youth to be educated, engaged voters is spearheaded by Kids Voting USA. This nonprofit group operates through a national network of affiliates that partner with schools and election officials to educate and inform. The organization uses civic activities to introduce students to the concepts of citizenship as early as kindergarten and continues throughout their years in school in the interest of developing the strong skills and habits that are invaluable for living in a democracy.
Students prepare for the election in their classrooms, where they learn about the Electoral College and its inner workings. In the evenings, children listen to their parents discuss hot-topic issues surrounding the election and come into the classroom ready to discuss. The current events nature of the election keeps the children interested and teachers challenge students to help them establish their own opinions on the issues.
After they have taken time to discuss the issues and fully understand the election process, the students take part in a mock election that mimics the actual election with the same candidates and same issues. This combination of classroom instruction, family dialogue and authentic voting experience makes the program a powerful tool for affecting long-term voting behavior.
It’s not only through voting, however, that kids get to be an adult for a day. They also walk away from the polls with the popular “I Voted” stickers, showing that they, too, completed their civic duty.