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GETTING OUT TO VOTE

Tom Mozg, a senior at Lackawanna High School, figures he'll clock 10 hours for KidsVoting Nov. 6 making the rounds of the polling places in Lackawanna's Second Ward, as one of four ward captains from his school.

"We set up the polls, with two shifts of students, make sure they're present, give them T-shirts, then tear down the polls when it's done and drop off ballots at the designated place."

He's been volunteering for KidsVoting for three or four years and has noticed that "most of the kids that vote are really little." While some of them may not understand what they're doing or know much of anything about the candidates, he still says, "It's good -- it gets their parents to the polls, gives them good habits at a young age."

More than 300 schools participate in KidsVoting in Erie and Niagara counties, with special booths at regular polling places so pupils in kindergarten through high school can vote alongside their parents, according to KidsVoting officials. And teen volunteers from many area high schools help make it happen.

Gerry Oczek, social studies chair and a teacher of U.S. History and Government at Lackawanna High School, estimates he gets about 125 high school students helping with KidsVoting to fulfill part of the community service requirement for their Participation in Government course.

"We solicit volunteers, starting with government classes and get close to 100 percent participation from government classes to work on Election Day," he said. "We go to U.S. History classes and ask for volunteers and solicit the rest from National Honor Society and Junior Honor Society so that all the wards in the City of Lackawanna are staffed 100 percent by students."

Karrie Sullivan, also a senior, will be making the rounds on Election Day in Lackawanna's Second Ward. Part of the job is making sure the high school students who signed up to help, stick around once they check in. She'll be "checking polling places all day to make sure someone's there, give them a T-shirt and check them in, make sure they don't leave."

Part of the teens' service includes helping the younger kids fill out the paper ballots. "They like the chance to feel like they're older than they are. Last year they thought it was the greatest thing in the world," she said.

David Iafallo, Lackawanna senior class president, is First Ward Captain and also figures on a 10-hour day. "It's from about noon to close to 10 p.m. We set up in the morning and have to check all day if workers are there. At the end of the night we bring everything back and tally the votes at the high school." The fourth captain, in the Third Ward, is a KidsVoting newcomer, Justin Scarsella.

Marciann Kukoda, a social studies teacher at Hutchinson Central Technical Institute in Buffalo, says 78 Hutch-Tech students have volunteered to staff booths for KidsVoting to fulfill their community service requirement. "Because the teens come from all over the city, the logistics are tough to place everybody," she said. "We have an incredible turnout for this."

In the Williamsville Central School District, "All students register to vote so that they know where the polling site is and what election district they are in," notes Cindy Beeley, the district's instructional specialist.

This is an "off-year" election -- without those headline-grabbing federal or state races -- but voters will be deciding the makeup of the Erie County Legislature and casting ballots for sheriff and county comptroller and for some judicial and city and town posts.

Adding additional interest for young voters are these three ballot questions:

Should we place tighter controls on immigration and visas in the aftermath of Sept. 11?

Should the United States and its world allies take military action in response to acts of terrorism?

In a time of national crisis, should the civil liberties of American citizens be restricted?

KIDS VOTING CONTEST
KidsVoting and Kiss 98.5 are sponsoring a contest, "What It Means to Be an American" for kids in kindergarten through high school. To enter, submit an essay, poem or other piece of writing of 100 words or less by clicking on the icon on the KISS 98.5 Web site at www.kiss985.com. Entry deadline is 11:59 p.m. Oct. 31. The winner will be announced Nov. 2 and will get to read their essay live on the Kiss 98.5 morning show on Election Day with Janet Snyder and Billy Vote and will win a pizza party for his/her class hosted by Janet and Billy.

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