Kids Voting Durham: Biggest Year Ever

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The US saw record voter turnout in the fall 2020 election. In Durham County, this was true not just for adult voters, but also for youth, over 25,000 of whom participated in the election through Kids Voting Durham.

Kids Voting Durham is a non-partisan, youth-centered program that helps youth 18 and younger from across the county understand the power they have as engaged citizens and informed voters  The program, which is affiliated with Kids Voting USA, usually strives to replicate the adult vote as closely as possible, with ballots and voting booths that, while kid-sized, resemble their adult counterparts. This year, however, kid voting went 100% online to keep youth safe during the pandemic- with the surprising result that participation shot through the roof.

“This year we had record involvement among youth in all aspects of our program.” explained Carolyn Kreuger, Kids Voting Durham Program Coordinator.

The increased participation started with the Kids Voting Durham annual youth internship program. This year, it went virtual. As a result, N.C. Cooperative Extension of Durham County was able to host 25 student leadership interns. These interns created materials for virtual learning, even developing an Instagram version of Kid’s Voting Durham’s highly-acclaimed youth election guide. Community partnerships provided an additional boost, with IBM volunteers leading educators, youth, parents, and local tech volunteers in visioning how to adapt Kids Voting Durham election materials for the virtual classroom environment. A grant from an anonymous community foundation fund allowed the program the extra staff time required to support the leadership interns and actualize the adaptation of materials for the virtual space.

These online materials, plus a valuable partnership with Kelly Stevens, K-12 Curriculum & Instruction History & Civic Engagement Specialist for Durham Public Schools, resulted in a record 95% of Durham Public Schools participating in Kids Voting Election this year, in addition to home, charter, and private schools as well as youth organizations.

In addition to the record 25,000 students who experienced Kids Voting Durham and the 2020 Elections in some way in their school setting or within the community, the program had extra reach this year, through partnerships with North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program and MomsRising, which allowed kids from across the state to vote in the state and national races for the first time this year.

“We were so excited by these new relationships, which we hope will allow Kids Voting Durham to expand and extend our reach to more youth across North Carolina,” said Kreuger. “While the pandemic presented a number of challenges, one silver lining is that more youth had the opportunity to learn about our electoral system and what it means to be an engaged citizen.”