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KidsPost Election

A kid-friendly take on the issues being addressed in this year's presidential campaign.

Other election resources for kids: And the Nominees Are ... (PDF)

Q: What should the U.S. government do about global warming?

[Illustration of a penguin on a shrinking iceberg.]

The Earth's climate is changing. Parts of it are warming up. Other areas are becoming colder. And many storms are more dangerous. Most scientists agree that human activity is the main cause. Fossil fuels, such as gas that we use in cars and oil we burn at home, give off carbon dioxide (called carbon emissions) and other gases, which trap heat in our atmosphere.

Nobody knows for sure what will happen if the planet continues to heat up. But scientists have seen enough changes in the environment, such as shrinking butterfly populations and melting glaciers, that many countries are taking action to help reverse the damage. Both presidential candidates say the United States needs to be a leader on this issue. Here's a look at what each one says he would do.

— Valerie Strauss

Where the Candidates Stand on the Environment John McCain Barack Obama
In their words “I want to assure you I will make this planet clean ... We will hand to you a cleaner planet than the one you were living in before I became president of the United States.” “Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now. ... It’s not the future any of us want for our children. And if we act now, and we act boldly, it doesn’t have to be.”
By how much would each candidate cut carbon emissions? (Scientists recommend cutting them to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050) Supports reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 60 percent below 1990 levels in 2050. Supports reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Where do they stand on pollution “permits,” which companies would have to buy if their pollutants were more than the government allowed? (Low-polluting companies could sell permits to higher-polluting ones.) Supports. Would initially give away permits to some business but would move toward an auction. Hasn’t said what he would do with the money raised. Supports. Would auction pollution permits to businesses and use the money to help clean up the environment.
How did each vote in the Senate on environmental issues? In 2007, the Sierra Club said he was the only member of Congress who did not vote on any of the 15 major pieces of environmental legislation. In 2007, he missed votes on four major environmental bills before Congress.

Where Kids Stand

Thousands of kids participated in online surveys about the environment conducted by Scholastic. How do the views of other kids compare with yours? Don't forget to vote in our online survey about campaign issues.

Which is the most important environmental issue facing the world today?

[55%: Global climate change]

SOURCE: Scholastic/American Museum of Natural History 2008 Environmental Report Card

What are you willing to do to stop global warming?

[46%: Recycle, change habits]

About the Artwork

[Book Cover]

KidsPost asked artist Edel Rodriguez to adapt his character Sergio the penguin for each of our Campaign 2008 pages. Come back each week to see what Sergio learns about the issues including war, health care and the economy. If you can't get enough of Sergio, check out Rodriguez's new picture book, “Sergio Makes a Splash!,” published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Q: What should be done about high prices, lost jobs and bankrupt companies?

[Illustration of a penguin skiing down a stock chart.]

The U.S. economy is complicated. It even stumps many adults! But there are some basics about the economy that kids should understand — especially since it has become one of the most important issues in the presidential campaign.

What is an economy? It is a system that involves buying and selling goods and services. At the center of any economy is money.

When you go to a store for school supplies, you are buying goods. You can also buy services. You do that when you pay for a haircut.

You can buy a part (a share) of a company, such as Microsoft or Toys R Us. That is called buying stock. You don't buy shares of a company at the supermarket; they are bought and sold on the stock market.

Part of what makes the economy complicated is that all of its parts are connected. When the economy is going well, people have jobs and can earn money to house and feed their families. They also can save money.

Lately the U.S. economy — the world's richest — has been experiencing big problems.

  • Prices are rising. Gasoline has gone up about a dollar a gallon in the past year; and the prices of milk, bread and other foods are way up.
  • Many people don't have jobs. In August, the government reported that the unemployment rate rose to the highest level in five years. Without jobs, it's hard for people to pay for even basic items, such as food.
  • People can't afford to keep their houses. Because of the type of loans some people used to buy houses, the amount of money they have to pay each month keeps going up.
  • The stock market is wacky. When the economy is shaky, people often sell stock because they want the cash (to buy goods and services or to pay bills). When lots of folks do this at the same time, the value of the company's stock falls.
  • Some financial companies are failing. Some businesses that play a big role in the economy made bad investments and were going bankrupt. The government let some businesses fail but is moving to save others by buying their bad investments. This is called a "bailout" and could cost the government a trillion dollars.

The combination of these factors means that people are less likely to spend money. To stay healthy, an economy needs money moving through it the same way your body needs blood moving through it.

Both presidential candidates say that part of their plans to help the economy involves cutting taxes. Taxes are fees that we pay to the government so that it can provide services, such as building and repairing highways. If people are paying less in taxes, then they have more to spend on goods and services. Cutting taxes is a way to get money moving through the economy again.

The chart belows shows what Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama would do about taxes if elected president.

— Valerie Strauss

2009 Family-Tax Proposals John McCain Barack Obama
How your family's taxes would change in 2009 depends on income (below) and on who becomes president. Sixty percent of U.S. families are in groups 1, 2 or 3. The richest Americans are in group 5. Calls for everyone's taxes to decrease. The wealthiest Americans receive the largest tax cut. Says tax cuts help the economy grow. Calls for almost all to receive a tax cut, but wants the rich to pay more. Says people with the most money can pay more taxes.
Change in Yearly Taxes
1) 0 to $18,981 -$21 -$567
2) $18,982 to $37,595 -$118 -$892
3) $37,596 to $66,354 -$325 -$1,118
4) $66,355 to $111,645 -$994 -$1,264
5) $111,646 to $2.87 million plus -$6,498 +$3,017
$111,646 to $160,972 -$2,584 -$2,135
$160,973 to $226,918 -$4,437 -$2,796
$226,919 to $603,402 -$8,159 +$121
$603,403 to $2.87 million -$48,862 +$93,709
More than $2.87 million -$290,708 +$542,882

SOURCE: Tax Policy Center; Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center
NOTE: The dollar amounts in the five categories are the average for all families in any one income group. Individual families might get more or less depending on their income.

Where Kids Stand

Kids put a number of economic issues high on the list of things they're worried about:

[Graph: 55 percent of kids rank poverty as their top economic issue.]

The concern about the economy is the result of the value of investments (such as homes or companies traded on the stock market) declining...

[Graph: DJIA Weekly Average for the Last Year]

...while the prices of goods and services (such as a gallon of gasoline) have risen.

[Graph: Price of gasoline for the Last Year]

SOURCES: Harris Interactive YouthPulse SM survey of 13- to 21-year olds, 2007; Dow Jones; Energy Information Administration

About the Artwork

[Book Cover]

KidsPost asked artist Edel Rodriguez to adapt his character Sergio the penguin for each of our Campaign 2008 pages. Come back each week to see what Sergio learns about the issues including war, health care and the economy. If you can't get enough of Sergio, check out Rodriguez's new picture book, “Sergio Makes a Splash!,” published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Q: How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq and Afghanistan?

[Illustration of a penguin reading a newspaper with the headline 'War!'.]
U.S. Troop Counts
  Today Early 2009
Afghanistan 31,000 34,700*
Iraq 151,000 142,000
Totals 182,000 176,700

* Commanders say they need even more to defeat Taliban fighters trying to take control.

Many of you probably don't remember a time when the United States wasn't at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Deciding what to do about these wars will fall to the new president. That's why it is important to understand the plans of both candidates running for president: Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain.

American troops invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. President Bush ordered the invasion as part of the war on terror to catch Osama bin Laden and punish him for masterminding those attacks. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, which protected bin Laden, was overthrown. But bin Laden hasn't been captured, and his terrorist group, al-Qaeda, still operates.

You've probably heard more about the war in Iraq. American troops were sent into the country in 2003 to overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein. Bush said Iraq was hiding dangerous weapons, known as weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found.

The United States has helped the Iraqi people set up a new government, but groups within that country are fighting for control. More than 4,100 U.S. service members and thousands more Iraqis have been killed.

That's part of the reason that war is a central campaign issue.

— Valerie Strauss

Where the Candidates Stand on the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan John McCain Barack Obama
IRAQ
Position on 2003 invasion Supported; voted in Senate to authorize force in 2002. Opposed; was not yet a U.S. senator but said he would have voted against war.
Early war strategy Criticized; said there were not enough troops to succeed. Opposed; said government was unprepared when war went badly.
Position on the “surge” From June 2007 to March 2008, 30,000 more troops were sent to Iraq; strategy resulted in drop in violence. Leading voice for troop surge; says it significantly reduced violence in Iraq. Opposed surge; says decision by Iraqi groups to stop fighting each other was a main reason for violence drop.
How long could U.S. troops expect to remain in Iraq if you're president? Won't commit to a specific date; says it depends on events in Iraq. Says almost all troops would return home within 16 months.
AFGHANISTAN
Position on war Supported invasion; thought more troops should have been sent. Thinks main battleground of war on terror is in Iraq. Supported invasion; has called for more troops for several years. Thinks main battleground for war on terror is in Afghanistan.

SOURCES: Department of Defense, staff reports, candidates' Web sites, www.votegopher.com

Countries in Conflict

[Globe map identifying Afghanistan and Iraq] Kids in Afghanistan and Iraq make up a bigger percentage of their country's population than kids in the United States do.

SOURCE: CIA World Factbook, July 2008 estimates. Figures are rounded, so 45.4 is 45.

[46%: Recycle, change habits]

About the Artwork

[Book Cover]

KidsPost asked artist Edel Rodriguez to adapt his character Sergio the penguin for each of our Campaign 2008 pages. Come back each week to see what Sergio learns about the issues including war, health care and the economy. If you can't get enough of Sergio, check out Rodriguez's new picture book, “Sergio Makes a Splash!,” published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Q: What should the government do to make schools better?

[Illustration of Sergio the penguin on his way to school]

If you're in public school, then you're a part of a huge national experiment in education.

It is called No Child Left Behind, and President Bush started it in 2002 to make sure that schools were doing a better job of educating kids. Whether that experiment continues will be decided by the next president and Congress.

The government provides free education to every child, but not all public schools are equally good. Many of the most troubled schools have students from the poorest families. Bush said it wasn't fair that those kids weren't getting a good education.

No Child Left Behind ordered schools to change many things. The most controversial change was forcing kids to take standardized tests as a way of measuring if they were learning more.

Some teachers say the program helped them focus better on needy kids. But many others said kids were spending too much time taking tests and not enough time learning.

There are other educational issues for the next president to consider: Should the government pay for all kids to go to pre-kindergarten? If a school isn't doing a good job, should parents be able to make the government pay for their kids to go to a private school? (This is called the voucher system.)

The public school system is supposed to give every child a chance to succeed, but educating the 50 million kids in public schools will cost about $500 billion this year. Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain will have a big say in the future of education, which means he'll have a big say in your future.

— Valerie Strauss

Where the Candidates Stand on Education John McCain Barack Obama
How should No Child Left Behind change? Called it "a good program" that should be continued and improved. Specifically,
» Would make it easier for students to choose their schools or get tutoring; pledged $750 million for online schools.
» Would continue standardized testing program.
Wants to make major changes. Specifically,
» Would provide billions more dollars to help schools get better.
» Wants student progress to be measured by more than standardized tests; wants to add back music and art where they've been cut.
Vouchers Supports. Says parents in poorly run schools should have a choice; would expand program in D.C. Opposes. Says government money should go to public, not private, schools.
Pre-kindergarten Says there already are enough programs but they need to be managed better. Says getting youngest kids ready for school is a very important part of his education plan. Plans to give more money to these programs and wants states to make pre-K available for all.
In their own words "The No Child Left Behind Act may have some flaws associated with it, but I still view it as a major milestone in trying to improve education in this country." "Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend most of the year preparing him to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test."

Where Kids Stand on Education

Kids spend a lot of time at school, learning not just what's in their textbooks but also about respect, self-confidence and achievement. Here's what kids in sixth through eighth grades had to say about their schools.

[Graph of kids' responses]

SOURCE: 2006 survey of almost 62,000 students from 18 states done by Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations

About the Artwork

[Book Cover]

KidsPost asked artist Edel Rodriguez to adapt his character Sergio the penguin for each of our Campaign 2008 pages. Come back each week to see what Sergio learns about issues such as health care and energy. If you can't get enough of Sergio, check out Rodriguez's new picture book, “Sergio Makes a Splash!,” published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Q: What can the president do to help every child grow up healthy?

[Illustration of Sergio the penguin on at a doctor's visit]

You may dread going to the doctor — but think about what would happen if you were very sick and your parents couldn't afford to take you. That's a problem for millions of kids in the United States.

The next president will have a big role in deciding how to help those who can't get good medical care.

Health care is very expensive; the way most families try to afford it is to have health insurance. Most people in the United States get health insurance through their jobs, with workers and employers splitting the cost of the insurance.

Insurance may be the only thing that you pay for but hope you won't ever use. Your family probably has car insurance, for example. Your parents make a payment called a premium every month. If the car is in an accident and needs to be fixed or replaced, the insurance helps pays the cost. Health insurance helps families pay doctors' bills.

But many Americans don't have health insurance — 46 million of them, or 15 percent of the population. Of that number, 8 million are younger than 18. That's about 11 percent of all U.S. kids.

People don't have insurance for different reasons. Some don't have jobs and can't afford their own policy. Some work for small businesses that don't have the money to help workers buy it.

The two presidential candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, have different approaches to helping more people get health insurance and improving medical care. Here are some of their views.

— Valerie Strauss

Where the Candidates Stand on Health Care John McCain Barack Obama
Basic approach to health insurance » Would give Americans a $5,000 credit to pay for their insurance but would make people pay taxes on insurance provided by employers, which has never been done.
» Says if people (rather than companies) pay for insurance, people will be more careful about how they spend the money.
» Would work with state governments to help the uninsured.
» Would guarantee that anybody who wants health insurance gets it, offering a plan similar to all Americans similar to one available to U.S. government workers
» Would require big companies that do not offer health plans to their workers to do so and would help small businesses pay for insurance for employees.
Who gets Would not require anyone to get insurance. Would require kids to have health insurance but not adults.
Other cost-cutting ideas » Would make it harder for people to take their doctors to court, saying that the costs of these lawsuits push up the costs of medical coverage for everyone.
» Supports bringing in cheaper prescription drugs from other countries.
» Would put a limit on the profits that drug companies can make. Supports bringing in cheaper prescription drugs from other countries.
» Would prevent insurance companies from refusing to sell insurance to people who are sick (also known as people with a preexisting condition).
Price tag for health-care plan (Estimate by Tax Policy Center) $1.3 trillion over 10 years $1.6 trillion over 10 years

SOURCES: www.barackobama.com, mccainforpresident.com, everychildmatters.org, votegopher.com, familiesusa.org, U.S. Census Bureau

Kids Talk About Their Health Care

In 2007 nearly 9,500 U.S. kids were interviewed about their health and their health care. Here is how they answered some of the questions:

[Chart: Stats about kids and their health care situations]

SOURCES: National Health Interview Survey, 2007; Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Percentage of kids without health insurance based on family income

[Graph: Percentage of kids without health insurance based on family income]

About the Artwork

[Book Cover]

KidsPost asked artist Edel Rodriguez to adapt his character Sergio the penguin for each of our Election 2008 pages. Come back next week to see what Sergio learns about energy. If you can't get enough of Sergio, check out Rodriguez's new picture book, “Sergio Makes a Splash!,” published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Q: What should the United States do
about its reliance on foreign oil?

[Illustration of Sergio the penguin plugging in an electric fishie car]

When you ride in a car to go school or to the movies, you may not think about the gasoline in the tank. But adults do — more than ever.

Here's why:

A decade ago this month, the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $1.36 (in today's dollars). In mid-July it was $4.10. Today it's less than $3 in most places. You can see that it has gone way up and come back down, which is part of the problem. The price doesn't remain stable.

These issues are very important to families because the cost of many things, including food, is linked to the cost of gas. (How does food get to the supermarket? On trucks.)

Energy is a particularly big issue for the United States because we're energy hogs. With 5 percent of the world's people, we use about 22 percent of the world's energy each year.

There are many sources of energy, and Americans use a variety. The biggest, though, is oil; it meets 40 percent of our energy needs.

We used to produce all the oil we needed here. But we began to need more and started buying from other countries. Since 1994, we have bought more petroleum from other nations than we produce ourselves. That puts the United States at the mercy of other countries, which can control the price and availability of oil.

Even if it were cheap and available, oil pollutes the environment, and there is a limited amount of it. That's why it is called a nonrenewable source. Coal and natural gas are other examples of nonrenewable energies.

There are also renewable sources (those that can easily be produced) that do not pollute. Wind and solar energy are two of them. Nuclear power, which is controversial because of questions about whether it's safe, is another energy source.

The presidential candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, each says one of his biggest goals is to make the country "energy independent." KidsPost's Valerie Strauss explains their plans.

Where the Candidates Stand on Energy John McCain Barack Obama
Basic approach Favors increased drilling in the waters off the U.S. coast to find more oil and favors drilling in areas that are now off-limits. Would greatly expand use of nuclear power.
» Would commit $2 billion annually to develop coal that doesn't pollute and give tax credits to companies to develop environmentally friendly energy.
Would invest $150 billion over 10 years to develop non-polluting energy sources.
» Would drill for oil on land and urge oil companies to find oil offshore in areas where they have permission to drill.
Goals for using less Has not set target for cutting U.S. oil consumption or increasing renewable energy sources.
» Would enforce existing rules for how many miles per gallon a car should get.
Reduce oil consumption by 35 percent by 2030, in part by requiring new cars to get more miles per gallon each year.
» Ensure 10 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012; 25 percent by 2025.
Tax on oil company profits Opposes extra taxes on oil companies when they make more than a set amount of profit. Says higher taxes would mean oil companies would cut back oil exploration in the United States. Would impose extra tax on big profits (called a windfall profits tax) and use the money to give families a $1,000 rebate to help pay rising energy bills.
Nuclear power Would use federal money to help build 45 nuclear power plants by 2030, saying that nuclear power has been proven safe. Wants to make sure the process of producing nuclear energy is safe before building new plants.
Other sources or ideas Would offer a $300 million prize for anyone who creates a car battery that improves greatly on what is now available.
» $5,000 tax credit for people who buy cars that don't pollute.
Put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars — cars made in America that can get up to 150 miles per gallon — on the road by 2015.
» $7,000 tax credit for people who buy cars that don't pollute.

SOURCES: www.eia.doe.gov, www.worldpopulationbalance.org, www.barackobama.com, www.johnmccain.com, www.votegopher.com

Kinds of Energy

Energy sources are renewable or nonrenewable. Nonrenewable energy takes a long time to replace. Renewable energy can be replaced quickly.

[Graph: Type of Energy used in the United States last year

[Graph: Nonrenewable energy]

SOURCE: Energy Information Administration

About the Artwork

[Book Cover]

KidsPost asked artist Edel Rodriguez to adapt his character Sergio the penguin for each of our Election 2008 pages. If you can't get enough of Sergio, check out Rodriguez's new picture book, “Sergio Makes a Splash!,” published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The Moments That Made the Men

[Illustration of Obama and McCain trying to appeal to a penguin]

Have you ever heard the phrase "a defining moment"? It's a time in your life when you experience something so powerful that it helps shape who you become.

The two leading candidates for U.S. president, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, each have had important defining experiences.

Here are their stories, plus interesting facts about them and the people they picked as their vice presidential running mates.

No matter who wins, history will be made. Read on to find out why.

— Valerie Strauss

[Barack Obama]

Obama says his early years shaped his view of the world.

He was born in Hawaii to a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, who left when Obama was a toddler. After that, Obama saw his father once, when he was 10.

His mother was an anthropologist who worked helping poor women. She remarried, and the family moved to Indonesia.

When Obama was 10, his mom sent him to Hawaii to live with his grandparents and to go to a private school on scholarship. He was one of a few black students at the school.

The absence of his parents forced him to stand up for himself and fight for what he wanted, he has said. He felt he had to grow up faster than other children, to take responsibility and to solve problems. He worked to help people who were discriminated against in finding houses and jobs. He was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2004 and is the first African American to be nominated for president by a major party.

His father died in 1982; his mother in 1995.

Age: 47; would be the fifth-youngest president to take office.
As a kid: Nicknamed "Barry O'Bomber" for his great jump shot in basketball; he wanted to be a professional basketball player.
Education: Attended Occidental College. Graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
Family: Has two daughters with Michelle Obama: Malia, 10; Sasha, 7. They get $1 a week in allowance.
Favorite books: Has many, including "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Moby Dick."
Favorite president: Abraham Lincoln
[John McCain]

McCain says his war experience made him who he is today.

A Navy pilot and an officer from 1958 to 1981, he was flying a plane in 1967 during the Vietnam War that was shot down in enemy territory. He was seriously wounded, and his wounds never properly healed. (He hasn't been able to lift his hands over his head for more than 40 years.) He was held as a prisoner of war for 5A years in a grimy jail known as the "Hanoi Hilton," where he was tortured.

When McCain's captors realized that his father was a famous U.S. Navy admiral, they offered him early release. He refused, saying he would not leave unless prisoners captured before him were freed, too.

When he returned home, he said he was a more serious man committed to public service. McCain was elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986.

But he did not always support the party's policies and became known as a maverick who followed his own independent thinking.

Age: 72; would be the oldest president to take office.
As a kid: Was nicknamed "Punk" and "McNasty" because he fought a lot.
Education: Graduated from private Episcopal High School in Alexandria; admits being one of the worst students in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Family: Has six grown children from two marriages and a teenager whom he and wife Cindy adopted as a baby from Bangladesh. Four grandchildren.
Favorite books: "For Whom the Bell Tolls," by Ernest Hemingway. The main character, Robert Jordan, is a war hero.
Favorite president: Theodore Roosevelt, another famous maverick Republican.

Vice Presidential Candidates

[Joe Biden]
Age: 67
As a kid: Stuttered so badly that his classmates teased him, calling him Bi-Bi-Biden.
Education: Graduated from the University of Delaware and Syracuse University Law School.
Career: Worked as a lawyer; was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. Has run for president twice.
Family: In December 1972 his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash. His two sons suffered serious injuries but recovered. Married Jill Tracy Jacobs in 1977, and they have a daughter. Never moved his family to Washington; instead rides the train from Delaware every workday. Has five grandchildren.
For fun: Enjoys designing and renovating houses.
[Sarah Palin]
Age: 44; would be first female vice president in U.S. history.
As a kid: Called "Sarah Barracuda" in school for playing basketball toughly.
Education: Graduated from the University of Idaho.
Career: Worked as television sports reporter; was mayor of the small town of Wasilla before becoming the first woman elected governor of Alaska in 2006.
Family: Married to Todd Palin, a four-time champion of the Iron Dog, the world's longest snow mobile race. Has five children: Track, 18; Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; Piper, 7; and Trig, born in April. Calls herself a "hockey mom."
For fun: Loves to run marathons, hunt, fish and pursue other outdoor sports.

About the Artwork

[Book Cover]

KidsPost asked artist Edel Rodriguez to adapt his character Sergio the penguin for each of our Campaign 2008 pages. Come back each week to see what Sergio learns about the issues including war, health care and the economy. If you can't get enough of Sergio, check out Rodriguez's new picture book, “Sergio Makes a Splash!,” published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Election Night: Color by the Numbers

It's finally here, Election Day. Soon, we'll know who the 44th president of the United States will be: Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois or Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. - Sometimes the winner of a presidential election is known relatively early in the night, but sometimes it takes days - or even weeks - to declare a winner. - Never let it be said that KidsPost is encouraging you to scam your parents. But if you'd like to stay up a bit past your usual bedtime tonight to see who wins the election, may we suggest using the line "But, Dad, it's history"? - If it works, then you can keep track of the results using our handy electoral college map below:

Instructions: Click on a state once to make it blue for Obama, click it twice to make it red for McCain. Rollover states to see past election results. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Or you can download the PDF version to print out.

Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in to view our enhanced content.

Here are some things you need to know:

Poll closing times

The first election polls will close at 6 p.m. Eastern time (in parts of Indiana and Kentucky); the last state's polls close (in Alaska) at 1 a.m. No, we're not suggesting you stay up that late.

Red states and blue states

This is where coloring the states comes in. Take a look at the map of the United States (right) with most of the states colored in either red or blue. Red states are ones that McCain is expected to win. Blue states are ones that Obama is expected to win. As you watch election results come in, you can use the larger map above to keep track of which candidate wins each state. Click once on the states Obama wins to turn them blue and click twice for the states McCain wins to make them red. If a state Obama was expected to win goes to McCain, for example, that could be important. Some states aren't colored in because surveys have shown they are too close to call. Who wins those states will be very important, too.

Popular vote

This is the total number of votes cast across the country. In the 2000 presidential election, Democrat Al Gore won more than 500,000 more popular votes than Republican George W. Bush. If you're scratching your head, wondering, "So why don't we have a President Gore?" read on.

Electoral votes

When people vote, they are really selecting electors to the electoral college, which then decides who is president. Each state gets a number of electoral votes based on its population. That's why states with a lot of electoral votes are so important. In most cases when a candidate wins a state's popular vote, he also wins that state's electoral votes. A candidate could win Virginia's popular vote by a single ballot, but he would get all 13 of its electoral votes. There are 538 electoral votes. Use the table on the right side of this page to keep track of them.

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