“Come vote!”

“For what?”

This was the usual response November 2, 2006, at the Poland Regional High School mock election. Students walking the halls were called over to the voting booths by peers and were handed a ballot. Then they entered the booths and made decisions about serious matters.

“I chose a candidate from each party, so everyone was happy,” senior Nicole Watkins said about her voting method.

Watkins is a recently registered voter from the town of Poland. She selected a political party based on information she learned in her humanities class. When voting time comes around, however, she says she does not actively research information on the candidates to formulate her opinions.

This lack of knowledge and interest in politics among young voters is a national trend. According to PIRGS’s New Voters Project, 49% of 18-29 year olds voted in the 2004 presidential election, the lowest voter turnout out of all age groups.

Interest among young voters is lost when “candidates are not addressing ‘the public’ in a way that resonates with young people,” reports Kathleen Barr, a national media coordinator for Young Voter Strategies, a non-profit organization at George Washington University.

“It’s rare to hear a candidate, when talking about the economy, mention 20-somethings entering the job market; or when talking about the troops in Iraq, ‘candidates’ refer to them as their peers-not sons and daughters,” she says.

Barr continues, “Politicians don’t need to change their issues, but need to think about the youngest voters and target their message to the young people.”

Will Griffiths, a senior at PRHS, is ready to register to vote in January when he turns eighteen. Griffiths says, “Most kids don’t think it matters what decisions are made regarding health care for seniors. Voting becomes important to people when it sinks in that the decisions affect them.”

Griffiths understands that not all teens are that informed or really care about the political decisions.

“It’s not the kid’s or country’s fault that the politics don’t appeal or interest the younger voters, and it’s okay that they don’t. Freedom allows people to choose their interests and passions. Kids just don’t get intrigued by political issues.”

The PRHS mock elections were not taken seriously by a majority of students, due to ignorance and lack of interest in politics. Many of the kids have a few years left until they have the opportunity to vote. When they realize their opinions will be heard, voting will become important. For now, mock elections are just an introduction to the process of voting.

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