During the 2006 Maryland Gubernatorial Elections, the Montgomery County Board of Elections developed the Future Vote Initiative to train and assign 6th-12th grade students to county precincts for the purpose of assisting voters, becoming prepared and engaged as a future voter and actively participating in the election process through Election Day support. In 2004, MCBOE approved and launched the Future Vote Initiative pilot, as conceived by Gilberto “Dr. Z” Zelaya II, Ph.D., Community Outreach Liaison. By 2006, the program was expanded to all voting precincts in the County. Although 18 years is the voting age in the United States, in Maryland, children up to age 12 are permitted to accompany their parents or guardians into the voting booth, leaving a 6-year gap of no Election Day opportunity for polling place based civic experience.
The program intent is to increase current and future voter knowledge, educate and strengthen ties related to civic participation for Montgomery County’s youth and families by actively providing an opportunity for civic duty, community involvement, and emphasizing the importance of preserving participatory democracy. Parents/guardians are enthusiastic about the program, frequently gaining insight and knowledge about civic experience and their role or lack of involvement and understanding. Some decide to vote and/or become an election judge and/or inform others in their community of the opportunity to vote and to serve through Future Vote.
Additional benefits of Future Vote include new-found insight and interest in civic participation; informed and energetic voters-to-be; technical and assistive support to voters; monitoring and improving line management and gathering of voter access cards, a saving of time and money by downsizing our need to hire temporary workers; as well as the long-range potential accumulative effect of preparing an otherwise untrained group of voters to become experienced voters, knowledgeable about voting procedures and discovering that throughout each of their lifetimes they may more knowledgably choose to become an election judge or train and work in election administration, an oftunrecognized opportunity. Each election is, then, a significant opportunity to expand civic participation, provide factual information to the increasing number of Future Vote participants and potentially enhance our Democracy.Articles: