Local youngsters have their say with a vote

County elections officers refused to count 464 votes on Tuesday in an obvious attempt to uphold election laws and protect the voting rights of Archuleta County residents.

The voters, students from Archuleta County District 50 Joint schools, were participating in Project: Vote!­ — a program designed to get K-12 students interested in the democratic process “and alleviate voter apathy.”

Children could go to three Project: Vote! “polling places” to fill out sample ballots, shortened versions of the official ballots provided to registered voters. Presidential, congressional, and local candidates were included on the students’ ballots as well as five amendment initiatives and two referenda.

Although the results of the students’ votes largely mirrored voting patterns in Colorado and Archuleta County, there were a few notable differences. For instance, the students approved two amendments that would have increased funding for education — amendments 58 and 59 — that were rejected by registered voters. Clearly, being in the system, increased funding for education is something the students could get behind.

Kids were stronger for Barack Obama than the general electorate, with Obama winning against John McCain 60 percent to 37.5 percent. Student votes for senator-elect Mark Udall and congressman John Salazar also reflected the results of Tuesday’s general election.

In the county commissioner races, John Ranson and Clifford Lucero were the clear favorites, also reflecting the choices of area voters.

The kid demographic was comprised of 68 voters from kindergarten through second grade, 123 third-and fourth-grade voters, and 273 grade five through 12 students.

Unfortunately, results for The SUN writer who is coolest dude in the universe vote are currently subject to a recount.

Program coordinator Kristeen Harris, a teacher at the Pagosa Springs Elementary School, said, “The goal is to educate, inform and vote. We’re welcoming all students to come in and have an opportunity to have their voice heard.”

Harris added that she was grateful, “for the great support from the League of Women Voters” as well as from town and county officials who helped her make the program work.

In another four years, some of the Project: Vote! kids will have a cut their teeth on the ballot process and will be ready to make their votes count as adults. While some candidates may be working the NASCAR-dad or Security-mom demographic, a candidate with an eye on the future may do well to look at the K-12 voting bloc.

jim@pagosasun.com