Thirteen-year-old Perry Davis felt like a grown-up last week as he marked his ballot.
Like thousands of other students around the region, he was taking part in Kids Voting, a program designed to teach civic responsibility to young people.
“It was kind of like voting as an adult,” said Perry, an eighth-grader at Concordia Christian Day School in Conover. “It was pretty fun.
Students in grades kindergarten through 12 from Catawba, Cabarrus, Iredell and Mecklenburg counties participated in the mock elections, voting in the major races as well as down-ticket contests like judges.
The Kids Voting programs are part of Kids Voting USA, a nonprofit organization based in Washington.
Teachers incorporate Kids Voting lesson plans into their curriculum so students learn about the candidates and issues. The program provides authentic election experience and the chance for students to vote on the actual candidates and issues that are on the adult ballot. Some students even volunteer at polling places.
Amy Farrell, executive director of Kids Voting Mecklenburg, said 70,367 students voted in Mecklenburg County, compared to 42,000 in the last presidential election. One-third of the students voted early.
“There was a lot of excitement generated by this election,” Farrell said.
Kids Voting is an ongoing program with a classroom focus on how to stay informed and active in the community. The goal, said Farrell, is to help kids develop the skills to become active citizens now so they'll be prepared in the future.
In Catawba County, 7,093 kids voted; Cabarrus, which includes part of Rowan and Kannapolis City Schools, 19,519; and Iredell County, 7,117.
Allie Long, 13, an eighth-grader at Concordia Christian Day, said the experience expanded her knowledge about voting.
“I learned there are a lot more candidates than just the president and the governor,” she said. “It was fun to try something new like this.”