It’s been hard to find voices of hope this election season. People seem to feel they’re choosing between the lesser of two evils.
Not E.J. Johnson: “This is mostly, one of the mostly, heart-racing thrilling things I’ve ever done!”
She isn’t talking about voting, though, because she won’t be able to do that for another eight years or so. E.J. is in fifth grade. Her enthusiasm is for getting out the vote at the University of Colorado, Boulder. It’s the task at hand for her and a bunch of other fifth-grade students from the Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies.
In school, these kids have been learning about the power of voice in politics, like who could vote in early America.
“Only white men with property could vote,” says fifth-grader Dale Boyer. “It was just crazy how unjust people were back then to people who were different from them. That was surprising to me.”
Also surprising for a lot of these kids is just how long women had to fight for the vote.
“It’s torture to know that so many people worked so hard to get that right to vote, and people aren’t voting,” says E.J. Johnson. “We shouldn’t just throw it away like it’s somebody’s old garbage.”
In class, they learned that less than half of college-age students voted in the last presidential election. That’s the lowest voter turnout of any age group and part of the reason these students are here trying to get their message out.
Juliana Krigsman, another fifth-grader, says before studying these things she didn’t realize that “our country was so not open-minded.”
Or that law enforcement was so brutal in trying to deny voting rights to African-Americans, especially in the South, “that they would actually go to the extent to try to hurt them, to try to stop them physically,” she says.
They all say voting is something really important for adults to do. But what about kids? Do they think kids should have the right to vote?
“I don’t think kids should vote until they’re at least 13,” says Lila Newmark.
“Because they may not know so much about the candidates and it wouldn’t be a very learned vote.” Yes … she’s 10 years old.
As the march wraps up, the kids bring their hand-painted signs together to form a tunnel for the college students to walk through. Maybe that part won’t get them to vote, but hopefully they’ll get a smile out of it.