Adults in Minneapolis may have a new role model when it comes to encouraging high voter turnout--their children.
As part of "Youth Vote '91," Minneapolis students ages 1218 were allowed to cast ballots for school-board candidates and to vote on their own separate questions during the Nov. 5 general election. While a mere 5.6 percent of adults went to the polls, more than 40 percent of the city's public-school students took advantage of the rare opportunity to fulfill their civic duties.
"It was a real accomplishment," said David Johnson, a high-school senior who was one of the vote's organizers. "We're very happy about the turnout."
In addition to casting nonbinding ballots for school-board candidates, the youths voted on an array of issues, ranging from student participation in teacher evaluations to lowering the voting age.
The most hotly contested question turned out to be one that asked if the city@s current desegregation policies should be replaced by "color blind" enrollment. Students answered 'yes" by a margin only 177 votes out of 5,799 cast on the question.
By larger margins, the young voters also said students should participate in performance evaluations of teachers and administrators; approved the concept of a "culturally diverse'' school curriculum; and urged the city's public agencies to provide paid internships for students.
Student-vote organizers selected the ballot questions after meeting with youths all over the city. Colleen Walker of the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, a sponsor of the effort, said she hopes youth ballots will be offered in all future Minneapolis elections.
"This definitely makes the case that young people are very capable of making decisions and feel strongly about playing a larger part in the community," she said.
The students clearly agree with Walker: Seventy-three percent voted
to lower the voting age to 16.