Kid balloting could set record
By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer
"Oh yeah? Well, my candidate can whip your candidate any day of the week."
Today, while their parents line up to cast real ballots in a hotly contested gubernatorial election and other races, more than 100,000 Hawai'i students are expected to wind up their own "Kids Voting" balloting.
As of early yesterday, more than 50,000 had cast their ballots electronically, online, at school, at home, or anywhere else where there was an Internet connection.
Thousands more will line up today in front of computers at or near real polling places on school campuses to key and click in their choices.
The turnout is expected to set a record for Kids Voting, compared with about 48,000 votes cast for president two years ago, and 72,000 in the 1998 gubernatorial election.
Hawai'i's students are the first in the nation to participate online in a statewide general election.
American Savings Bank, sponsor of the virtual voting program in partnership with the state, Rotary Clubs and Alpha Delta Kappa Women Educators Sorority, calls it "digital democracy, the very first e-lection ever in Hawai'i."
Although the results don't count, officials will not release them until the real polling places close at 6 p.m., for fear the K-12 straw vote could affect the outcomes in the actual elections, according to Linda Coble, chairwoman of Kids Voting Hawaii 2002.
"It's just too huge of an exit poll to take a chance, and we are following the law according to the State Office of Elections and not releasing our results until 6 p.m.," Coble said.
But the kids vote tabulations will be instantaneous, Coble said. "They are voting the way people are going to vote in the future."
"I was at Aloha Stadium the other night, wearing my Kids Voting T-shirt, and several kids puffed up real proud and told me they had already voted," Coble said.
"And their parents said, 'You what?' "
Children voting this year, as they have in two past elections in Hawai'i, are also motivating their parents to vote, Coble said.
"In the past, we've seen children dragging their parents through the rain to get to the polling places set up next to the regular polling places ..." she said.
Although children often vote in accord with opinions they hear their parents express at home, Coble said, they appear to be showing greater independence.
Hawai'i children favored George Bush in the last presidential election while their parents voted in the majority for Al Gore.
"Every time, I am changing my mind a little more regarding kids voting as their parents are likely to vote," Coble said.
"This year, with the kids voting online, they have had an opportunity to view the general election ballot since Sept. 24 and have been practicing on it and researching candidates and talking about this in school," she said.
"In fact, they have been getting into arguments on the playground with other kids over who they are voting for for governor."
The Kids Voting results will be announced, by children, at 6 p.m. at the Ala Moana Centerstage, and will be posted instantly on the kidsvotinghawaii.org Web site, as well as flashed to major media outlets.
Teachers in most public and private schools statewide have downloaded more than 160,000 voter tokens, the personal passwords students need to vote online. There are about 215,000 K-12 students in public and private schools, but not all schools are participating.
Many schools that have regular polling places will open computer rooms today to allow children to vote.