October 31, 2004
The word "freedom" hangs over flags and pictures of the Statue of Liberty in Redbird Elementary School’s library. But on Tuesday, the term will be more than just a slogan.
Every student in the Mesa school’s first through sixth grades has "registered" to vote and will line up alongside adults to cast their own votes for the next president.
They are among thousands of students in every grade throughout the East Valley who have been learning about the electoral process as they watch it unfold.
"It’s important," said Sebastian Ott, 11, a Redbird sixth-grader. "You can make a difference."
Caroline Piepenbrink, the school’s media specialist, has incorporated the election into her teaching. Her class spent Friday searching for presidential facts in the almanac.
Principal Nicholas Parker said prompting discussion among children is also a good way to encourage more parents to vote.
The Kids Voting campaign — begun in Mesa in 1988 — expects to break its record of children voting.
Already, 40,000 kids have voted using an online form available until the polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Two years ago, 50,000 students voted, said Kids Voting director Paul Roddy, who expects the Kids Voting election results shortly after 7 p.m.
Many schools are turning red, white and blue as teachers use Kids Voting materials, or make their own ballots, to teach students the electoral process and encourage them to vote when they turn 18.
Mesa High School will hold a mock election with results on Monday, while elementary schools in Chandler and Gilbert will gather in front of computer screens to vote together and tally results before Election Day.
Kids can vote at a local polling place, or online at www.kidsvotingaz.org.