Kids Voting NC

— Written By Sarah Kotzian
en Español / em Português

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Kids Voting NC Logo

Citizenship is one of the three mission mandates for North Carolina 4-H. According to National 4-H Headquarters (2011),

Since its inception, 4-H has placed emphasis on the importance of young people being engaged, well-informed citizens. By connecting to their communities and community leaders, youth understand their role in civic affairs and expand their role in decision-making processes. It’s clear that civic engagement provides the foundation that helps youth understand the “big picture” of life and find purpose and meaning. The core areas of Citizenship are:

  • Civic Engagement (voice, advocacy, activism)
  • Service (community service, service learning, community youth development)
  • Civic Education (government principles, processes and structure; personal roles & responsibilities, history & cultural heritage
  • Leadership (leadership, respect, understanding, character development).

Civic Engagement is a critical life skill for youth to develop to become competent, caring, and contributing members of their communities and society. North Carolina 4-H chose to address this for 2022 by partnering with Durham County Cooperative Extension and expanding their Kids Voting Durham program to a statewide Kids Voting NC program. Kids Voting creates lifelong voting habits in children, increases family communication about citizenship, and encourages greater adult voter turnout. The program provides education as well as voting experiences. Youth who participate and vote through this program have a chance to cast their ballot, which is modeled after the adult ballot, and can see the youth election results from their county just as adults see the results come in on election night.

North Carolina 4-H offered this opportunity free of charge to any county that chose to participate. All supplies, including training materials, incentives, and voting supplies, were provided. Counties that decided to participate were asked to attend training sessions and provide evaluation data after the program. This program was marketed as a high-quality civic engagement experience and an opportunity to develop or enhance community partnership and support. Kids Voting NC offered 4-H programs the chance to participate at three levels. The basic level included having youth vote through an online platform. The service activity level included having the program delivered as an in-person service activity. The partnership level consisted of working with county partners to provide the program in as many locations and formats as possible. The 2022 program provided the basis for increasing the reach of participating counties in the 2023 municipal elections. The goal is to double the number of 4-H County programs participating to 40 for the 2024 Presidential Elections.

Statewide evaluation results showed:

  • 18 NC County 4-H Programs participated in the inaugural year of this program,
  • Over 1,000 young people cast a ballot through Kids Voting NC, and
  • When asked how many of those who participated planned to vote when they turned 18, 88% of youth participants responded that they would vote when they were able.

One youth summed up their experiences by sharing, “I was glad to participate in this program, as I felt important to have my voice heard even though I am not old enough to vote in the real election.”

To learn more about offering Kids Voting in your county or other Civic Engagement opportunities, contact your local 4-H Agent!