Program aims to create lifelong voters

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Bus Project Foundation has :Vote Bots' like the one pictured here across the United States. West Linn High School participated in the Bus Project Foundation’s Democracy Cup Competition. Although the school did not form a competition team, about 19 students in Matt Kellogg’s classroom participated in workshops this spring about public speaking and democracy.

The Democracy Cup Competition is part of a nonpartisan effort to engage young people in the democratic process and teach students about the importance of civic involvement. The organization has provided workshops in 13 counties throughout Oregon — including six high schools in Clackamas County — and have registered 2,223 Oregon students to vote.

Nationwide, the campaign has reached out to 6,300 high school students across the state and has helped register more than 10,000 voters — the goal is 14,000 — for the 2012 election.

“Studies show that those who vote young, tend to vote for life,” said Amanda Tripp Johansson, Democracy Cup coordinator for the Bus Project Foundation. “The Bus is dedicated to engaging young citizens in the democratic process and the Democracy Cup is just an extension of that mission.”

Each Halloween, the Bus Project Foundation’s staff and volunteers dress up in costume, hit the streets of Portland during the “Trick or Vote” event and remind people to vote. This year the bus was joined by hundreds of high school students from around the state thanks to the Democracy Cup program.

The Democracy Cup is the Bus’ new year-round program that engages high school juniors and seniors in a statewide competition to register as many eligible juniors and seniors to vote as possible.

Democracy mentors throughout Oregon Schools and at West Linn High School were created to teach interactive presentations on the democratic process and identify Democracy Captains — students charged with registering their fellow juniors and seniors to vote.

“Educating students about civic responsibilities used to be a major focus of public education,” Johansson said. “But constant cuts to education funding mean that schools can no longer perform that function alone. The Bus is proud to help Oregon schools shoulder that burden through the Democracy Cup program.”

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Mock Election

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Oregon Student Mock Election sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oregon Education Fund. More than 45,000 Oregon students are participating in the mock election this year, giving them the opportunity to cast their votes Oct. 29 through Nov. 1 on the presidential, representative, secretary of state, supreme court judge and state ballot measures.

Oregon student votes will be reported nationally and counted among hundreds of thousands of students participating nationwide.

The purpose of the mock election is to teach students — through experience-based education — about the elections process and the importance of voting.

This year’s vote is historic in that it coincides with the 100-year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in Oregon.

Mock election curriculum — for grades kindergarten through high School — aligns with Oregon Social Sciences Academic Content Standards and emphasised the 100-year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in Oregon.

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