Government class preps young voters


They may not be quite old enough to vote but they'll be ready when they do.

During the American Government class at Moffat County High School, students learn more than the basics of democracy.

The class taught by Liena Davis-Kling often doubles as the first exposure many young adults get as they enter into the political environment.

During a recent class, students were introduced to the Nov. 4 ballot questions, a first for some who had never seen a voter blue book or a sample ballot.

"The only thing that really matters to me is the school district issues," said Carissa Taylor.

Taylor's reasoning was attributed to both parents sharing employment with the Moffat County school district.

While 16-year-old Carissa has roughly two years before registering to vote, it's a task she plans on fulfilling.

"I think we should vote on things that affect us," she said. "It's important to have a voice."

But wanting to vote and fully understanding the issues are difficult when ballot language is hard to decipher, she said.

"I didn't really get the ballot (language)," she said. "It's almost like it's not in English."

In the next couple days Davis-Kling will walk students through those ballot questions as she does other issues.

On Thursday, students debated the topic of wild fires ravaging California, and other fires that have consumed areas within the state. She asked students to explain the images on TV and speculate why media coverage shifted recently from a West Coast focus to a closer-to-home slant.

Prior to the fire discussion, students were introduced to anti-bullying legislation following the massacre of students at Columbine High School.

"I like the class because she keeps you informed on what's going on in the world," said Stephanee Hafey. "She keeps you posted on the political stuff. She talks to you and actually tells you what's going on."

For all the information offered in the class, a handful of students admitted they didn't talk much among peers about political happenings. However one local issue -- a proposal to increase taxes for a recreational center was one common denominator with students.

"I'm definitely for the rec center," said Kyle Morris. "I've talked about the rec center with my friends but for the most part we don't discuss it a lot."

At 17 years old, Morris said he planned on registering to vote next year.

Attending a recent council meeting required for class credit gave Morris a better idea of the how local government operates.

"It was a chance to see what went on," he said. "I thought it was fairly interesting but kind of boring."

Someday becoming a council member, he said, wasn't appealing.

"I don't think it's a job I want to choose," Morris said. "I know it's important stuff but it's hard to understand especially how it affects kids my age."

Similar to the council chambers, a sort of democracy exists within the class' structure.

Students are required to draft and sign contracts over rules of being tardy, what distinguishes extra credit and disciplinary actions. Failing to meet contract requirements may result in a student performing a number of push-ups, for example.

According to Hafey, the voting procedure is less intimidating after taking the government class. She knows now that she doesn't have to fill in every question on a ballot.

The right to vote is something Hafey plans on exercising but she said it's not at the top of the priority list for other classmates.

"It's something some people look forward to and others don't," she said.

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 208 or by e-mail at

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