Student Vote 2018: ‘Voting matters because everyone’s voice matters’

More than 20,500 students across Lincoln cast their electronic ballots on Thursday as part of Student Vote, a Lincoln Public Schools tradition that offers students the chance to participate in a mock election using the same local ballot that voters will see Nov. 6.

“It was cool seeing everyone vote like it was a real election - plus, a lot of people wore red, white and blue,” said Kinley Vlieger, a fifth-grader at Humann Elementary School. She was one of the school’s student election commissioners and helped check in her classmates before they voted during first period.

Students in grades four through 12 at every LPS school - along with Lincoln Christian, Elmwood-Murdock and Raymond Central - participated in Student Vote, which has been held every two years since 1992 in conjunction with KFOR radio.

This year, 20,587 students voted. Among the many races and issues on the ballot, they voted for Republican incumbent Pete Ricketts (11,530) over Democratic challenger Bob Krist (8,198) in the governor’s race, and for Democratic challenger Jane Raybould (8,817) over Republican incumbent Deb Fischer (8,558) in a tight race for the U.S. Senate. Full results from Thursday’s Student Vote, including a school-by-school breakdown, is available online.

Six students announced the results live on the LPS website and Facebook page at 4 p.m. Also on hand for the announcement were Jill St. James from KFOR and Jaci Kellison, the LPS K-12 social studies curriculum specialist.

Kellison took part in the first Student Vote when she was a student at Rousseau Elementary School. The candidates and issues may have changed since then, but the purpose behind Student Vote remains the same.

“At Lincoln Public Schools, we really try to give students opportunities to be active, engaged and informed citizens and this is a great way to do that,” she said.

Students voted with their Chromebooks and in a variety of ways. Some schools, such as Humann, designated a specific classroom for voting and even set up rows of individual voting booths at desks. Some schools had students vote during their social studies classes, while others set aside time at the beginning of a period for all students to vote at the same time.

At Lincoln High School, Principal Mark Larson explained the Student Vote process during first-period morning announcements before the daily reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“Make your votes count, LHS students,” Larson said.

But Student Vote was more than a one-day event. Students at all levels learned more about voting and the election process during the weeks leading up to Thursday. For elementary students, there were lessons that focused on the question, “Why does voting matter?” For middle and high school students, “How do I become an informed voter?”

Kinley, the fifth-grader from Humann, said she learned about the political parties, how elections work, as well as another valuable lesson for voters of all ages: “You don’t have to vote the same as your friends.”

Dezi Swensen, a fifth-grader at Pershing Elementary School, said she now has a better understanding of the importance of voting.

“We learned that voting is a big part of life and when we turn 18 we can go and vote and it will actually count,” she said.

Atticus Fina, an eighth-grader at Lefler Middle School, said Student Vote is vital because, “students need to learn how to vote, otherwise when they go into it at 18 they won’t know what’s going on.” 

Said Jadyn Keller, a senior at Northeast High School: “The younger generations continue to have the lowest voter turnout rate so I think it’s important to introduce the voting process and how to become an informed voter.” 

And Hadley Kerner, a fifth-grader at Kooser Elementary School, may have summed it up best when asked what she learned through Student Vote. 

“I learned that voting matters because everyone’s voice matters.”

Published: November 1, 2018, Updated: November 7, 2018