(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says she believes a higher number of young people will turn out to vote on Election Day. Traditionally, about 25 percent of all voters in the 18 to 25 age group go to polls. But Markowitz says there are signs that this trend is about to change.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Markowitz traveled to Union Elementary School in Montpelier to kick off the Vermont Votes for Kids Project, a program that’s designed to encourage young people to learn more about the state’s political system. As part of the project, one of the fifth grade classes in Montpelier is sending birthday cards to members of the senior class at the high school as these students turn 18 to remind them to register to vote.
Standing outside of the main school entrance, the class sang the words to their birthday card:
“You had a birthday – shout ‘Hooray!’
Now you can even vote today,
So be a good citizen and role model too,
The town clerk’s waiting for you!”
(Kinzel) To teach the students about democracy, Markowitz sets up a prop that resembles the wheel of fortune; each portion of the wheel has a question about how government works:
(Markowitz) “This is the election wheel of fortune and I’m going to move it-” (sound of wheel, tick, tick, tick, tick.) “-and let’s see what the question is and what you might know already. Someone raise a hand. Okay, how old to you have to be to vote?”
(Markowitz) “Eighteen! You get a prize. Let’s do it again…”
(Kinzel) Markowitz thinks that these kinds of programs are one reason why more young people will vote in November:
(Markowitz) “I’m seeing a tremendous increase in interest among young people in this upcoming election. And I don’t know if it’s because the war in Iraq touches them more closely or because efforts that have been going on for now the past six years to teach young people about democracy and voting before they leave school, as part of this kind of program.”
(Kinzel) Markowitz notes that many young people are avoiding registration efforts organized by the political parties and instead are choosing non-partisan registration programs:
(Markowitz) “What we have discovered is that most young people, most young adults don’t feel affiliated with either party. And in fact the feedback we got when we started to develop our on-campus programs was that young people didn’t want to register at a partisan booth because they didn’t really know what they thought. And in fact they wanted to vote for the best person, irrespective of party.”
(Kinzel) Markowitz says she’ll be very interested to see how many of the young people who’ve registered to vote in recent months actually make it to the polls in November.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.