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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, November 13, 2000

At least kids had
fun at the polls

LAST week, on General Election Day, I patriotically manned the sign-in table outside the polling site at Aliiolani Elementary School cafeteria in Kaimuki. Luckily for me, all of the voters who sat down to register were smiling, polite and conscientious about their civic responsibility.

They were a joy to meet. They were all under age 18.

This was my first time volunteering with "Kids Voting Hawaii," a unique educational project sponsored locally by American Savings Bank and manned by island Rotarians.

The innovative nationwide program gives kindergarten through 12th-grade students a chance to cast mock ballots not only on big state races but issues worth pondering.

It's good training for the voters of tomorrow. They research candidates and concerns, then become so motivated they often drag reluctant parents to the polls on Nov. 7 so they can make their political choices in tandem.

The most interesting part of the "Kids Voting" ballot was the list of yes/no questions that 6th-12th graders got to answer after discussing the issues in class. Here are the queries, along with how this big kid would have voted if given the chance:

1) Should students evaluate their teachers? Absolutely. How else are teachers going to know how well they're doing (or NOT doing)?

2) Should the student member elected to the Board of Education have voting rights? Why not? He or she represents the student, the most important person in the public education system.

3) Should theft and vandalism committed to school property carry more severe punishment than the same crimes committed elsewhere. Yes, yes, yes. Hurting the schools is akin to hurting the future of this community.

4) Should vending machines be allowed on school campuses? No way, says this junk-food-hating parental authority figure.

5) Should soda be sold on school campuses? See answer to question number four.

6) Should the driving age be raised from 15 to 18. Only for my kid.

7) Should canoeing and surfing be established as competitive sports in the Hawaii interscholastic sports program? Affirmative. Canoeing is healthy, team-oriented and exciting, and surfing as a competitive sport in the schools could improve the attendance records of those cutting class to hit the beach when the waves start a-calling.

8) Should fluoride be added to the drinking water in Hawaii? A definite consideration if the problem of poor dental hygiene among kids continues to worsen.

9) Should schools operate year-round? Yes. Learning should be an ongoing experience that doesn't require a refresher course after three long months of a summertime break.

10) Should all schools maintain the same schedule for holidays and vacations? Nah, don't be so rigid? Let the individual schools decide.

No wonder the young voters were in such a good mood at the polls. Not only did their ballots have pleasant-looking photos of the candidates, but the "Kids Voting" questions got their brain cells stimulated.

Maybe that's why the adults at the polls were predominantly an unsmiling bunch. They looked a little tired and/or grumpy, and didn't have the same twinkle in the eye that the youngsters had.

Could it be that the big people saw voting as a duty, while the little people were merely thrilled that somebody cared what they thought? Undoubtedly they saw it as a honor, and rightly so.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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