Officials, Phoenix Mercury out to engage voters of tomorrow

A student attending a recent Phoenix Mercury game fills out a ballot asking for choices on favorite Mercury player and more. (Photo by April Morganroth/Cronkite News)

The 2014 primary election in Arizona saw the lowest voter turnout since the state began keeping track, with only 27 percent of registered voters participating. Turnout for the general election was 48 percent.

Aiming for better turnout among the voters of tomorrow, the Phoenix Mercury, Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell collaborated recently on a way to teach civic responsibility through sports.

School Day, held during the Mercury’s Sept. 2 day game against the Washington Mystics, drew 4,000 grade school students to US Airways Center to watch some basketball and take part in an election featuring county voting machines.

The ballot featured three questions, each with several choices:

  • “Who is your favorite Mercury player?”
  • “What is your favorite giveaway item at a game?”
  • “What is your favorite part of a sporting event?”

“It was super exciting. I just loved it,” said Alexandra Noriega, 11, a sixth-grader at Larry C. Kennedy School in Phoenix.

As classes made their way to the arena’s concourse for their turns with the voting machines, Reagan and Purcell helped students navigate and fill out ballots while talking about how fun and important voting can be.

Both encouraged the children to go home and talk to their parents about the process and the importance of registering to vote.

“We are so excited about it,” Reagan said. “It is to encourage young people to get excited about voting, to get excited about being involved in community and being involved participating in elections.”

Purcell said she hopes the experience shows kids how easy voting is.

“If they have really never tried something, sometimes they are wary about it, so this gives them an opportunity in a setting that is a little bit different than our normal elections,” she said.

Arrian Wissel, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Larry C. Kennedy School, said it was exciting for kids to be able to express their opinions as voters.

“I think that it is really important that they have the chance to practice so that when they’re old enough to vote they have an idea of what that is,” she said.