Dayzee Reid-Wolfe elbowed her way up to a ballot box at the Durham County public library on Saturday, excited about her first time voting.
She studied her ballot, then selected her candidates with much pluck and determination. The kindergartner looked over her early choices, then meticulously went back to each race and filled in all the ovals.
A nonpartisan voter, no doubt.
The 5-year-old tipped her red, white and blue hat strategically, then helped her mother, Jasmine Reid, slide the ballot into the voting box slot.
“I’m president,” Dayzee proclaimed as she raised her hands with delight.
Reid and dozens of other parents brought their children to the main Durham County library on Saturday to give them a lesson in civics that they hoped would stay with them for life.
Kids Voting Durham and NC MomsRising, along with Jack and Jill and Mocha Moms, joined forces for the Kids & Family Early Voting Celebration to help the children learn more about the electoral process.
They started with a library story time that chronicled Clifford the Big Red Dog’s run for president. They gobbled Goldfish crackers and other snacks as they talked about their legislative, congressional and judicial candidates of choice.
The children then cast their ballots before marching to Durham’s early voting site, where adults cast ballots that will be counted after the polls close on Nov. 4.
Jonathan Ward, 10, a fifth-grader at Durham Academy, attended a banquet held by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and did a little research of his own before deciding how to mark his ballot.
“I picked the people who I knew and I’ve seen in the campaign posters in my neighborhood,” the young voter said.
Brendan Gordon, 11, and his brother, Kameron McMillan, 7, had come to the event because their mother, Bridget McMillan, is a school bus driver who transported the Southern Durham High Marching Band to the event. The boys had two siblings in the band, too.
“I voted for Kay Hagan because she’s helping other people,” said Brendan, a sixth-grader at Neal Middle School. “I heard that Thom Tillis is bad because he’s helping rich people with yachts and everything. I don’t think it’s fair because poor people can’t afford yachts and everything.”
Kameron, too, said he liked Hagan, not because of the TV ads his brother watched so studiously.
Durham, as Hagan, a Democrat, and Tillis, a Republican, likely know, traditionally has been a Democratic stronghold.
“I voted for Kay Hagan because she’s a good president,” Kameron said.
Brendan, armed with the knowledge of a sixth-grader who might one day like to be president himself, immediately stepped in to help his brother. Hagan and Tillis, Brendan said, are running for the U.S. Senate.
“He’s in second grade,” Brendan said. “They haven’t studied about elections yet.”
That’s one of the goals of Kids Voting USA, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has sparked the development of projects across the country. Three Arizona businessmen returned from a fishing trip in Costa Rica in 1988 inspired by the high voter turnout there and by the local custom of children accompanying their parents to the polls.
Beth Messer-Smith of MomsRising and Cheryl Krueger of Kids Voting Durham hoped the story hour, crafts table — and yes, the snacks — help excite kids enough about voting that they will take part in the electoral process once they are of age and give parents a nudge toward the polls on election day.
“We think it’s important,” Krueger said.
Some of the youngsters followed parents across the street from the library to the annex of the old Durham courthouse, where adults were casting ballots in the early-voting period.
Others lingered in the parking lot, where another group of marchers soon congregated.
Teachers, parents, environmental advocates and others had joined up for a similarly themed event – Durham Votes Early – to encourage adults to exercise their voting rights.