Kaila White, Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
September 3, 2015
In an attempt to increase voting by Millennials in the 2016 elections and beyond, local government officials polled kids on sports.
Some with popcorn and slushies in hand, most dressed in school uniforms of khaki and plaid, the children lined up to scan their official ballots into a voting machine under a “concessions” sign.
Two or three times a year, thousands of kids take a field trip to see the Phoenix Mercury play. On Wednesday, for the first time, those visitors participated in a mock election.
Part of the ballot from the mock election for kids at the Phoenix Mercury game on Wednesday, Sept. 2, in Phoenix.
More than an estimated 4,000 children received ballots during the game against the Washington Mystics at US Airways Center in Phoenix.
It was part of a new initiative from the Mercury and the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office to improve voter registration and participation rates among 18- through 24-year-olds, though Wednesday’s voters were all kids and tweens.
“The philosophy is, if we’re going and talking to people at 18 years old for the first time, that’s probably too late,” Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan said. “We need to get people excited about having their voice heard, and what’s more exciting than talking to them, on their level, about sports?”
On the ballot: Bobbleheads and Brittney Griner
There were three hard-hitting questions on the table:
Who is your favorite Mercury player?
What is your favorite giveaway item at a game?
What is your favorite part of a sporting event?
For Phoenix sixth-grader Angie Gonzalez, it was all about Mistie Bass “because she’s cool” and T-shirts as giveaways “because you get to keep them.”
Voting was fun, she said, and when it comes to elections, she mostly just pays attention to the president “to know who it is so I know who I’m looking up to.”
Boosting the Millennial vote
Reagan said she and other government officials are working to promote voting among Millennials because their turnout has dropped.
About 100,000 fewer people ages 18 to 35 voted in Arizona’s last general election compared with the one before it, or about 4 percent of voters, she said.
That number “could have shifted every statewide election … secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent,” she said.
The takeaway: Draw arrows and tell your parents
A big lesson among kids was that voters can't circle the answer they want; they have to draw a line to create an arrow that a scanner can read.
But the biggest takeaway, Reagan said, is the card at the bottom of the ballot that kids got to take home. It's a keepsake, but it also lists all upcoming election dates in 2016 for the potential voters those kids brag to:
Feb. 24: Early voting begins for the presidential-preference election.
March 22: Presidential-preference election.
Aug. 1: Voter-registration deadline for the primary election.
Aug. 3: Early voting begins for the primary election.
Aug. 30: Primary election.
Oct. 10: Voter-registration deadline for the general election.
Oct. 12: Early voting begins for the general election.
Nov. 8: General election.