Dozens of voters filed into the Smith gym last week to cast their ballots on an important Lincoln issue—and even though none of the voters were officially registered, the results will still count.
The ballot question asked the “voters” (Lincoln School students in grades K-3) what shape they preferred for town dog licenses next year: a dog bone, a fireplug, or a dog house. Running the election and tallying the results were fourth-graders under the direction of Town Clerk Susan Brooks and other adult helpers to teach the kids about the voting process.
“I’d had this idea for a while, and it’s thrilling to see the kids, teachers and principals really embracing it,” Brooks said. “It’s a nice introduction to the kids of how the wheels of government turn, and it shows how in a town our size, a few people can make a difference.”
The “election” had all the features of the real thing: a check-in table where “registered voters” were matched against class rosters, voting booths (albeit cardboard), and a tally table where students recorded the results on a large chart as they came in.
The centerpiece of the operation was a 100-year-old Lincoln ballot box that was recently restored. When a voter inserted a ballot, the poll worker turned a handle, the ballot disappeared inside, a bell rang, and a mechanical tally number changed. In the old days, a small round ink pad inside also printed the word “Lincoln” on each ballot as it was processed through the rollers.
The wooden ballot box has one part that doesn’t look quite genuine; the crank handle made of copper tubing doesn’t match but was clearly installed as a replacement at some point. One of the volunteers that day was Margaret Flint of the long-time Lincoln Flint family. As it turns out, her father-in-law, Warren Flint Sr., fashioned the replacement handle many years ago.
After the ballots were processed, each student got an “I Voted” sticker. Watching over the process was Lincoln Police Det. Ian Spencer, the town’s youth officer, making sure there wasn’t any Russian meddling.
“Outreach is a big part of what we do,” Brooks said. “The town clerk’s office, at bottom, is making government more accessible to people, and my role is to be more affirmative and proactive about it.”
While some of the kids have accompanied their parents into the polls on Election Day, this was their first chance to participate in a close facsimile of town voting, “and some fo them seem to be genuinely thrilled to be close to the action,” Brooks said.
Samantha Bodnar was one of those who was pleased to have her opinion count, at least on the issue of dig license shape. “It’s cool that the kids are voting on it and not the adults,” she said.
And the winner for next year’s dog license? “It will be a blue bone—in a landslide!” Brooks said.