Teachers create a new generation of voters

Hongwanji Mission School
Hongwanji Mission School
Tina Young
Tina Young
Tyler Tabata
Tyler Tabata
Lyla Berg
Lyla Berg

By Keahi Tucker - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's no secret Hawaii is last in the country for voter turnout.  Maybe not for long, though, as teachers create a new generation of voters who wouldn't think of skipping the polls.

"Who is the governor of Hawaii?", an educator asks a room full of children.

On a cold hard floor at the Hongwanji Mission School, 5th graders celebrate civics with hats, signs and a sing along.  And, then, the hard part.

"You need to know your voter district and precinct number", teacher Tina Young explains.  This practice election lets them choose real candidates, pictures included and Tyler Tabata has done his homework.  "My family and I, we go to the bon dance and we see a lot of them and they pass out brochures about themselves", Tyler relates.

As the theory goes, these kids will grow up with voting a part of their lives and, when they hit 18, they'll keep on doing it.

Ms. Young recalls about a student, "One of them said, 'How come our votes don't count now?'  It tells you that they do want their voices to be heard."

Imagine a chorus of those voices changing the dynamic in a state where only half of all registered voters bother to fill out a ballot.

Representative Lyla Berg who helped start Kids Voting in 1996 is already seeing the payoff as the first of those young voters are now young parents.  "Their children are now voting as well.  So, it does work."

Today's kids even know their issues.

"Going green", Tyler quips.  And how to fight for a cause.  "I talked my mom into getting solar panels but I dunno..., he's (sic) thinking about it".

Makes you wonder if voting practice is creating more than future voters.

"Governor Tyler Tabata, 2040?", this reporter asked.  Tabata answers, "Maybe.  I don't know.  Looks like hard work".

Student voting ends on November 2nd and the results will be announced after adult voting is done.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.