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Students experience election process as ‘Future Voters’

POSTED: November 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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A third grade student at Springfield Elementary listens to technology instructor Rebecca Allen explain how to vote in the online mock election.

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The Effingham County School System and the Effingham County Board of Elections have joined forces to encourage student interest and participation in the American political process.  

The school system’s Future Voter program, in conjunction with Youth Leadership Initiative, gives students the opportunity to cast their “vote” during an online mock election held Oct. 20-30.  In addition, students are encouraged to go to the polls with a parent or guardian on Election Day and observe the real political process in action.

One of the components of the Future Voter program is to offer eligible high school students the opportunity to register to vote at school.  As a result, on Sept. 29 and 30, approximately 60 students from both ECHS and SEHS registered during their lunch breaks and will be able to vote in the upcoming election.

Another component of the program is to provide social studies teachers with optional grade-appropriate lesson plans that are aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards.  The lesson plans, like the Future Voter program itself, focus on the American electoral process not the candidates.  

“Our emphasis is not on who wins or loses,” explained Dayle Burns, coordinator for the program. “We want students to be proud that they were part of the mock election process.”

The last component of the program gives students the chance to go to the polls on Nov. 4 with their parents or guardians. Students will be allowed to watch their parent vote but are not allowed to touch the voting machines.

Community volunteers will be present at each polling precinct to give the students a special sticker and voter form which should be signed by the poll volunteer. When turned in to participating social studies teachers, the student may receive a homework grade or extra credit in his or her social studies class. (Students who do not participate will not be penalized.)  

Approximately 132 community volunteers will be assisting with the Future Voter program at each of the polling precincts on Nov. 4. They are scheduled to work from 7-8:30 a.m. and again from 2:30-7 p.m.  

According to Burns, establishing the Future Voters program has resulted in a tremendous community partnership effort involving local businesses, community service organizations and school groups.

“These groups have been invaluable in assisting with the planning process,” added Burns, “and in securing volunteers to hand out materials to the students who will go to the polls with their parents.”

Volunteer business, school and community groups include Georgia Pacific, Georgia Power, the SEHS National Honor Society and Beta Club, the ECHS Student Council, Youth Advisory Council and Beta Club, the Rotary Club of Effingham Sunrise, United Way of Effingham, The Rotary Club of Effingham County, and the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee.

This is the first time the Effingham County public schools have participated in Youth Leadership Initiative’s (YLI) mock election process. YLI is a nonpartisan unit of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and is funded by Congress, the Virginia Assembly and private donations.

The group develops free k-12 civic education resources designed to involve students in the American electoral and policymaking process. It is the largest secure, student-only, online mock election in the nation, using electronic ballots tailored to each student’s home legislative district.

For more information go online to www.youthleadership.net.

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