Eco-sense: The importance of voting – Estes Park Trail-Gazette – Estes Park Trail-Gazette

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The United States was created as a governmental experiment, based upon the unheard-of principle that the “common” man was capable of guiding the future. Prior to our Declaration of entitlement to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, kings were considered to rule by “divine right” and their leadership training began at birth. Could the uneducated masses really fulfill that role?
Today, in year 247 of the “great experiment”, all citizens over 18 years of age, have the right to vote but many adults choose not to participate in the decision-making process, preferring to allow others to decide for them. Perhaps it is a lack of knowledge about where to find information on the complex governmental issues and the unforeseen side effects of a “yes” or “no” answer, although the Blue Book provides a place to start that research. Perhaps it is an underlying belief that they, as individuals lack the power to influence the outcome, although every vote carries equal weight. Perhaps it is simply a lack of time to do everything and they consider voting to be inconsequential. Regardless of the cause, a part of the populace ignores the rights of citizenship.
It was not always so. As a child, many of us listened to our parents debate the ballot. As teenagers, we sat through debates and newscasts. My parents always claimed non-participants ceded their right to complain about the results, since (by not voting) they voted, ipso-facto, with the majority. As adults, we welcomed our children, and our grandchildren into the discussion, dissecting the pros and cons of each issue on the ballot and of each candidate for office. Very young children benefited by inclusion in the family event. Older children began to develop critical thinking and communication skills as well as confidence in their own ability to decide. Some teenagers could be amazingly insightful.
In the hustle and bustle of today, this exercise is still important. If we want a sustainable world (ecologically, economically, socially, educationally, or in any other way), then we must vote for leaders who will offer that and we must bear such goals in mind when we address ballot issues.
The Junior Election program attempts to encourage students to develop and practice voting in real elections. In the process, they build research capacity and expand critical thinking skills, as well as enhance communication. Paper ballots are available at the Estes Valley Library, at the Community Center, and at the Learning Place. Each “precinct” has a Ballot Box, but students are encouraged to take the ballot home to discuss with parents before voting.
Ballots for K-2 are only for Governor candidates. With parental guidance, it allows students to “vote” along with the rest of the family. Most young students have a limited attention span but like to be included. Ballots for grades 3-5 contain 3 candidate races, adding the 2 U.S. legislators. Middle School ballots always include at least one question. This election offers 3: Amendment E, Proposition 121 and Proposition 123. These issues, no matter how you plan to vote, offer an opportunity to explain to children, why we pay taxes and the services that the government provides. Middle School students who attend EPMS will vote at school, on computer, in Social Studies classes, but are welcome to collect a paper ballot for a family conference.
Some high school students are already 18 and are eligible to vote now. Others will be voting “for real” when this November’s winners come up for reelection. So, the high school ballot is usually complete, perhaps a little larger print, some delineative spacing, but all the wording from the adult ballot is presented. Ballots will also be available at EPHS and there will be a Ballot Box at school. Vote at any precinct.
Learning to vote and learning how to vote are both important steps toward adulthood. A bit of practice and an opportunity to watch the results helps to build confidence. This is where practice makes perfect.
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