Schoolchildren Get Jump On Politics Election 1994

November 09, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

The children were quite confident yesterday about their choices or governor of Maryland.

"She'll put more cops on the street," said Joppatowne Elementary kindergarten student Bernie Schuler about Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

"He gives money to the schools," said Stevie Strawbridge, a fourth-grader at William S. James Elementary, who voted for Democrat Parris N. Glendening.

The two boys shared their opinions yesterday after they cast ballots in the Kids Voting pilot program, in which Harford County schoolchildren went to the polls.

Students in kindergarten through 12th grade voted in the national, nonpartisan endeavor that strives to instill lifelong voting habits in children and encourage parental voting.

"It was kind of neat to be able to vote," said 10-year-old Laura Knight of Abingdon.

When polls closed at 8 p.m., 16,241, or 41 percent, of the county's 40,000 students had made their choices. They picked Mrs. Sauerbrey as their choice for governor by 8,930 to 7,311 over Mr. Glendening.

The Harford children narrowly voted for Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes over William Brock, 8,036 to 7,890, in the U.S. Senate race and Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. over Democrat Gerry L. Brewster, 9,406 to 6,492, in the 2nd District House of Representatives contest.

The children gave incumbent Democratic County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann a 2-to-1 margin of victory over Republican Ronald M. Szczybor, 10,845 to 5,191.

Their choices mirrored many of the Harford adults' results. Republican Joseph P. Meadows edged Democratic incumbent Sheriff Robert E. Comes, 1,128 to 1,023, in Kids Voting.

They differed from their parents, however, when it came to creating a county police force. They wanted one, by a vote of 1,265 to 899. The adults decided to stick with the sheriff's office in voting on their ballot question.

In District 34, the students picked three House of Delegates candidates: Republican Nancy Jacobs, 2,902; incumbent Democrat Mary Louise Preis, 2,528; and Democrat B. Daniel Riley, 2,270. For senator, they went with Republican David R. Craig over Democrat Habern W. Freeman Jr., 2,191 to 1,557.

In District 35A, the children chose the two incumbents for the House of Delegates, Republican James M. Harkins, 2,373, and Democrat Donald C. Fry, 2,352, and incumbent Sen. William A. Amoss got their nod with 1,476 votes over Republican Gwendalynne G. Corkran, 1,056, and independent Catharine Wilson, 655.

The students and adults parted ways with their choices for County Council president. The children gave Democrat Theresa M. Pierno 1,035 votes to 743 votes for Republican Joanne S. Parrott. In adult voting, Mrs. Parrott captured the seat.

Maryland is one of 20 states and the District of Columbia to implement the program, which is expected to expand statewide by 2000. Yesterday's Kids Voting experiment in Harford was the first in this state.

"I hope we'll do it again," said Patty Bashar, a teacher at Edgewood Middle School who, with her second-grade son, Alex, visited an Election Day party at the Bel Air Armory yesterday. "It got us talking about the issues."

In September, the children began learning about election basics, candidates and campaign issues in their classrooms. And they registered to vote.

So did their parents. "I registered to vote when the girls did at Youth's Benefit [Elementary in Fallston]," said Nancy Jones, the mother of Kelsey, 5, and Mandy, 8. "I hadn't re-registered since I was married."

Mrs. Jones cast her ballot yesterday after her children did at Fallston Middle School. "The school's put the pressure on parents," she said.

At 49 precincts in the county, yellow footprints led the way to the children's voting areas, which were separate from those of the adults.

The younger students voted for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and Harford County executive by filling in a circle next to the photo of the candidate. No reading was required.

Fourth- through eighth-grade children also chose a comptroller, attorney general, a district senator and delegates -- without photos.

High school students got the entire Harford ballot.

The votes don't count officially, but they were tabulated last night and posted at the armory, where parents and children ate cookies and drank punch.

Hoopla aside, the real goal of Kids Voting is to increase adult voter turnout.

Nationwide, in areas that have Kids Voting programs, adult participation in the election process has increased 3 percent to 7 percent, organizers said.

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