“For the fun of it!”
“Because we can!”
Over the past few weeks, the middle school kids in our Bright Futures afterschool program got to experience the fun of voting for themselves. They also had a few words of advice for adults who are eligible voters.
In school, they voted for homecoming king and queen, and then they participated in a mock election workshop and cast their vote for the next governor of Georgia. Before they voted, they took a political spectrum test, learned more about the candidates, and made up their own minds about who should win this upcoming election.
For the first few days, we mostly reviewed the U.S. government structure and role of a governor. The kids created their own governments based on what we learned, and unsurprisingly, many of them created democratic systems where only kids are allowed to vote.
Things began to get interesting when they all took a political spectrum test. Sitting in groups, the kids noticed that their answers didn’t always match up with that of their neighbors. This sparked a discussion about some of questions but also about how to handle differing opinions. These opinions really came to a head when we started to learn more about the candidates for governor.
Many of the kids had seen campaign ads and videos put out by the candidates, Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, but they didn’t know much about either of them. As we watched campaign videos and clips from the candidates’ primary speeches, the students came up with an Abrams vs. Kemp list that would rival that of most adults. We found that there are many similarities between the two, such as their focus on improving the lives of Georgia residents and desire to lower taxes. Almost all of the kids agreed that the next governor should lower taxes.
One thing they would change, however, is the voting restrictions in the U.S. Some kids said that everyone should be able to vote while others said that we still need an age restriction. They proposed the voting age should be lowered to 10 years old. One kid even proposed a law that required everyone to vote at least once in their life.
The best part, however, came when the students got to cast their own votes! They filled out voter registration forms, and we even had “election officials” at the “polling place” to guide them. After they voted, the students explained that voting is important for several reasons:
“To get a say in government.”
“People need someone to guide them, but we have to choose the right person.”
“To choose our leader and have a voice in it.”
The kids also have a message for adults who are eligible voters in this upcoming election:
“In the past people risked their lives to vote, but people now aren’t even using that right.”
“Make sure you vote, because we need a good leader to guide us.”