The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Monday, November 14, 2005

Students elect Kilgore for governor; B1

Statewide, computerized election shows strong support for Republicans

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The results are in, and it’s Republican Jerry Kilgore by a nose — at least for the under 18 set.

As the dust settles in Richmond and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine prepares to take the reins of power, results are starting to come in from student elections held in the immediate area and across the commonwealth.

Apparently, students have different views than their parents.

In a statewide, computerized election, some 64,000 students in Virginia and New Jersey cast ballots online in the days leading up to the election.

And in Virginia, the results would have been welcome news for the Republican Party on Nov. 8 — the GOP took the top and bottom of the ticket, losing the lieutenant governor’s race by a handful of votes.

Among students, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore bested Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, 44 percent to 42 percent. State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, came in third in his independent bid for governor with about 12 percent of the vote.

At the real ballot box, Kaine knocked off Kilgore by some 5 points.

It’s not about predicting the results of an election, according to Ken Stroupe, chief of staff at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, which helped conduct the mock election.

Voter participation has fallen off over the years, due in some part to the decline of civics education, Stroupe said.

That’s what U.Va.’s Youth Leadership Initiative is trying to correct by augmenting civics education and giving students some experience with voting and government.

“There’s not a lot of exposure to the participatory side of politics,” he said. The idea of civic duty is fading away.

Getting students involved with politics and government early is one way to reverse that trend, he said.

U.Va.’s effort wasn’t the only poll of students, though.

Shenandoah University’ Marsh Institute polled children at actual polling places on Election Day, with the goal of introducing those who can’t yet participate to the idea of voting.

“The most important thing is to get students to the polls at an early age, and they will come back to going to the polls at a later date,” said Bill Shendow, a professor of political science and director of the institute. “That’s the whole crux of our program.

“There have been studies, most notably Stanford University, that [show that] youngsters who participate in this program will become lifelong voters,” he said.

Students also tend to bring their parents to the polls when they’re engaged in the process.

With only Shenandoah County’s results yet to be tabulated Thursday, the results were striking.

Other notes of interest in the local Kids Voting results include:

• Student voters trended Republican much more strongly than their adult counterparts.

The ticket of Kilgore, state Sen. Bill Bolling and Del. Bob McDonnell won each county reported as of Thursday, in some cases by 2-to-1 margins.

Adults in Winchester went for now Gov.-elect Tim Kaine, and Kilgore won Clarke County by the narrowest of margins.

• State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. did much better among students than he did in the actual election, both statewide and locally.

Potts took home 25 percent of the student vote in Winchester, compared to just under 13 percent in the actual election. He also captured 17 percent in Clarke County among students, compared with just 7 percent among adults.

• Clarke County’s students are much more supportive of the proposed $55 million high school construction bond than their parents.

Students approved the measure 67 percent to 32 percent, while adults voted it down by almost the opposite margin, 69 percent to 31 percent.

• Clarke’s student electorate had a much easier time making up its mind about the treasurer’s race as well. Adults chose Sharon Keeler over Beth Shenk by five votes, but Shenk won the student poll 64 percent to 35 percent.