Although their votes couldn't affect the official results, about 1,600 Juneau students from kindergarten to 12th grade had a taste of democracy in Tuesday's election.
The students voted at booths in Juneau's 16 precincts and at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Their decisions paralleled those of Alaska adults. They approved changes in the initiative process and the method for filling a U.S. Senate vacancy. They rejected legalizing marijuana and bear baiting. They would have re-elected incumbent U.S. Rep. Don Young and state Reps. Beth Kerttula and Bruce Weyhrauch.
The presidential election was a close battle among the students - 750 voted for President George W. Bush, while 721 voted for Bush's challenger, Sen. John Kerry. Juneau-Douglas High School, in a previous mock election of its own, gave the edge to Kerry.
An exception in the students' nearly even split was the race for U.S. Senate. A total of 926 students supported former Gov. Tony Knowles, while 506 voted for Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
The student voting program was supported by Kids Voting Juneau, a nonpartisan nonprofit aimed at helping children understand government and the electoral process.
In addition to voting, 22 of the students formed a media team and worked as reporters to document Election Day activities in photographs and news articles. The group also produced pre-election public service announcements and wrote news stories and letters to the editor.
Jeremiah Crockroft, a member of the media team, checked with precinct workers, interviewed candidates and broadcast a short segment on KINY radio station.
"I like politics. I like the way it changes things," said Crockroft, a 10th-grader at Juneau-Douglas High School. He said he is now considering being a radio reporter.
At Glacier Valley Elementary School, kindergarten teacher JoAnn Steininger spent a week introducing the concept of elections to her 30 students. She held elections in which the students voted on their favorite pets and cookies.
The favorite pet election was a neck-and-neck competition. Dogs slipped past cats by one vote. Brownies won 19 votes to be the students' favorite cookie, and the class will make brownies later this week. The competitor, crispy rice treats, got 10 votes.
"Several children are not happy because they don't like chocolate," Steininger said. "But it is important for them to be a graceful loser."
Tami Malloy, whose son Alex is in Steininger's class, said Alex had nagged her the whole week about the importance of voting. Alex, 6, accompanied Malloy to vote on the election day and put Malloy's ballot in a ballot-reading machine.
"I voted for dogs and brownies," Alex said.
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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