At 9:30 a.m. on Election Day, the library at Will Rogers Learning Community opened as a polling place for the fifth graders’ “mock election” for President of the United States.
Students filed into the library class by class. They cast ballots in real voting booths, provided by the League of Women Voters. Parent volunteers served as poll workers.
While the students had spent time learning all about the electoral process with their teachers, one aspect of this election was different from the real thing: no names.
Students were given information about the platforms of “Candidate A” and “Candidate B,” not knowing which candidate was Obama or McCain. They voted for A or B based on how they felt about each candidate’s approach to national issues.
“The idea was to focus on the issues and not the candidates,” said Devon Smith, who teaches the fifth graders of Room 511.
“The kids really, truly, understand the electoral process. I didn’t understand the electoral process until I began to vote.”
In an “exit poll,” some of Smith’s students told the Mirror what it was like to go through a simulation of the actual voting process.
“I thought it was a great experience,” said Zeppelin Dufour, age 10. “We got to know how it feels to vote. I’ll have more experience when I get to be 18.”
Anthony Inatsuga, also age 10, commented on the anonymity of the candidates: “I felt like I might be voting for someone whom actually I really didn’t want to vote for and I would be against it when I found out.”
This was the first year of Will Rogers holding a “real” election, as opposed to students merely voting class by class, according to principal Irma Lyons.
“The key salient point is that it is vital to be an informed citizen,” Lyons told the Mirror. “The kids studied the economy, the environment, health care.
“Not only does this election help the kids learn about the electoral process, it also allows kids to get into conversations with their parents on the issues.”
At 10:30 a.m, voting ended and parent poll workers counted the votes, which were on four different colored ballots for the four fifth grade classes. This was in preparation for the school’s “electoral college” which was held in the cafeteria later in the day.
As in national elections, population determined the number of electors. Each class represented a state. The number of student council reps (two) for each class was combined with a number of “class reps” based on class size, resulting in between five and seven electors for each class.
The classes gathered in corners of the cafeteria. The teachers chose the electors for Candidates A and B for their classes.
Amber King, Student Body President, greeted the students with a brief speech on the study process the students had gone through. Then Batisse Le Tenoux, Vice President of Students, received the sealed ballots from the electors and read the results from each class.
“From Room 506 – one for B, one for B, one for B….” in all, six electoral votes. Some students laughed nervously, as room after room seemed to be voting for Candidate B.
In the final tally, from a voting field of 92 students, 84 percent had voted for candidate B, 16 percent for Candidate A. The total electoral vote was 100 percent for Candidate B.
“As the winner is revealed,” Le Tenoux announced, ”We congratulate….”
And a photo of the winner on the wall was unveiled.
“Senator Barack Obama!”
And the students at Will Rogers Learning Community cheered.