Originally created 10/30/04

Mock vote aims to generate interest



ATLANTA - Like many John Kerry supporters, Zachary Thomas cites the war in Iraq as his reason for voting Wednesday for the Massachusetts senator.

But President Bush need not worry.

Nine-year-old Zachary's vote won't count against the president. His Atlanta elementary school was participating in a national mock election this week.

As part of the University of Virginia Center for Politics' Youth Leadership Initiative, pupils across the state have gone through the same process many of their parents are facing for Election Day.

At Woodland Elementary School, pupils turned in voter registration cards, filled out online ballots listing state and national candidates and received "I voted" stickers.

Hook them while they're young, and they'll be more likely to participate in the political process when they reach the voting age of 18, said Mae Maddox, a teacher at Woodland who has organized debates with her pupils and encouraged them to research candidate platforms.

Ms. Maddox has another powerful ally in her attempt to make elections more relevant to young people this year - the celebrity pool.

While serious pundits might frown on movie stars and musicians trying to make politics a hip and flashy fad, their get-to-the poll efforts have been successful in getting young peoples' attention, Ms. Maddox said.

From P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" storm across the country to MTV's multi-media "Choose or Lose" push to get 20 million 18- to 30-year-olds to vote, there has been no shortage of civic messages to hit young voters.

While interest is high among all age groups in this election, voter registration in the younger end of the spectrum has jumped in Georgia.

As of Oct. 21, nearly 515,000 Georgia residents between the ages of 18 and 24 have registered to vote, which is up 25.7 percent from members of the same age group who registered for the 2000 election.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 589-842 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.