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Students cast votes in mock primary election.

She may not be old enough to drive or stay out past 10 p.m., but this week sixth grader Ava Hughes will cast a vote in the primary election.

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Hughes is one of thousands of students participating in Kids Voting Hawaii. The mock voting program, which is a part of the national program Kids Voting USA, began in 1996 as a way to prepare students for the responsibility of voting. In the 2008 presidential election, over 119,000 Hawaii students voted, according to the program’s website.

This week, Molokai students will vote online in a primary election for congressional, governor, lieutenant governor and mayoral candidates. Results will be published on the website Saturday for kids to see how their picks measured up.

“It’s a good thing for kids everywhere to know how to vote before they do for the first time,” Hughes, who attends Aka`ula School, said.

Aka`ula students are discussing the election and political issues in class this week before voting. Hughes has already done some research – she said the issues she is focused on are education and the environment.

“We talk to students about the civic responsibilities of voting, like knowing who the candidates are,” said Dara Lukonen, Aka`ula principal.

And unlike actual elections, participation in Kids Voting Hawaii is mandatory at many schools.

“Our kids vote a lot better than adults do,” said Richard Stevens, Kilohana Elementary School principal.


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