As Stoughton adults make their way to the polls to vote for Obama or Romney, or Brown or Warren on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, Stoughton youth under the age of 18 will also get to take part in the voting process thanks to Kids Voting Stoughton.
Their votes won't count towards the official election results, but this mock voting program simulates the adult voting experience.
Stoughton students K-12 will have the chance to partake in Kids Voting on Election Day from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. at their parent's polling location (click here for a list of polling locations).
Students will be able to vote for president, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative in Congress, state senator and state representative.
Kids Voting Stoughton is part of the nationwide Kids Voting USA program, a nonpartisan program "working to secure the future of democracy by preparing young people to be educated, engaged citizens" according to its website.
The program started in Stoughton back in 1998 and since then Stoughton youth have been able to partake in the voting process every 2 years for presidential and gubernatorial elections.
"I can see now after doing this for [multiple] election cycles the results of the program," Sharon Fradkin, Kids Voting Stoughton Steering Committee Co-Chair, said. "I see students in 12th grade exited to register to vote who took part in the program in 4th grade."
It's only available in a handful of communities in the state, and the number has decreased since the late 90s/early 2000s, but Kids Voting Stoughton is still going strong thanks to Fradkin and fellow Steering Committee Co-Chair Lynne Jardin, principal of the Gibbons Elementary School, and Pat Basler, Director of the Stoughton Public Library, who organizes the volunteers who help run the polls on Election Day.
The program also gets a big boost from the Stoughton Public Schools. Stoughton High School social studies department head John Gallivan is also part of the Steering Committee.
While not on the Kids Voting ballot, Kids Voting Stoughton and the SHS social studies department organized a discussion on Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life and about 100 students gathered in the school's large group room to hear speakers present both sides of the debate over the "death with dignity" ballot initiative. Prior to the event, students had discussions and read opinion pieces about the question in their social studies classes.
Students are also represented on the Steering Committee by Stoughton High Seniors Kelsie LaFerriere, Adam Lurie and John Stewart-Racicot.
Lurie said "it's important for kids to know the issues before voting," which Fradkin said is one of the goals of the program - make kids at a young age "informed voters," trained to learn about the issues, so that when they get to be voting age they don't just "fill in a circle."
Lurie thought Kids Voting was especially valuable for high school seniors/college-aged students who may be voting for the first time - "instead of leaping into voting at age 18, they have experience," he said.
"It's important to give kids a voice; a lot of the decisions that are made do affect us," LaFerriere said.
"I believe it's important for everyone to vote and voice their civic opinions," Stewart-Racicot said.