Kids to cast virtual votes

In what's being billed as the first and largest online national election — unofficially, of course — a national coalition of educators, youth groups

and technology companies expects to send millions of youngsters to the digital

voting booth.

Youth-e-Vote project supporters want to get 10 million K-12 students

to register and then vote in the presidential, congressional and gubernatorial

races. In the process, they hope to instill a sense of civic duty.

Donald Tighe, spokesman for Youth-e-Vote, said the project was launched

last year in response to low voter turnout in the 1996 federal elections.

Turnout was about 32 percent among 18- to 24-year-olds, according to Federal

Election Commission data.

Although several other initiatives, such as Rock the Vote and MTV's Choose

or Lose, are designed to spur voter registration among young people, Tighe

said youths have to be reached at an earlier age.

"Technology is their gateway to everything," Tighe said. "[Youth-e-Vote

is] a pre-voter initiative. Its real focus is civic education. We want to

turn today's students into tomorrow's voters."

Age-specific civic curricula is available on the Youth-e-Vote Web site ({http://www.youthevote.net}

www.youthevote.net), Tighe said. The material is password-protected, and

teachers can access it by registering with the site.

The nonprofit organization recently sent invitations and registration materials

to 109,000 public and private schools. Tighe said every principal interested

in participating will get an individual registration number, and then each

participating student will receive a unique personal identification number

to ensure that no votes are duplicated.

Tighe said the public school systems in Chicago and Los Angeles have pledged

to involve students.

The Youth-e-Vote is scheduled from Oct. 23 through Nov. 2, when results

will be publicized.

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