Stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in a mock elec­tion

High school­ers worked with their teacher to cre­ate polls and voter regis­tra­tion forms

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - TURN BACK TIME - By Ginger Rae Dun­bar gdun­bar@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @GingerDun­bar on Twit­ter

DOWN­ING­TOWN >> With the ma­jor­ity of the votes, Down­ing­town West High School stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in a mock pres­i­den­tial elec­tion could say “I’m with her.”

Down­ing­town West so­cial stud­ies teacher Daniel Soler had his Con­tem­po­rary Is­sues stu­dents con­struct two vot­ing booths and dec­o­rate the hall­ways with pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates para­pher­na­lia of Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump. In ad­di­tion to signs sup­port­ing the can­di­dates, each had their slo­gans posted, Clin­ton say­ing “stronger to­gether” and Trump say­ing “make Amer­ica great again.” Two life-size card­board cut-outs greeted the stu­dents as they ar­rived to vote

on Fri­day be­hind the cur­tains, sim­u­lat­ing a real vot­ing booth.

“It was a dy­namic day,” Soler said, “the kids re­ally en­joyed it.”

The mock bal­lot con­tained only three pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates: Clin­ton, Trump and Lib­er­tar­ian Party nom­i­nee Gary John­son. West stu­dent Zoe Fried­man ex­plained that the ma­jor­ity of the Con­tem­po­rary Is­sues stu­dents host­ing the elec­tion de­cided not to in­clude Green Party’s nom­i­nee Jill Stein be­cause she did not get her name on the bal­lot in every state.

“We felt leav­ing her off our bal­lot would al­low for a bet­ter fo­cus on those that are on all na­tional bal­lots,” Fried­man said.

The re­sults showed the tight­ness of the race here in Penn­syl­va­nia with 47 per­cent vot­ing for Clin­ton, 42 per­cent for Trump and 11 per­cent for Gary John­son. A sep­a­rate poll cre­ated by the Con­tem­po­rary Is­sues stu­dents al­lowed the un­reg­is­tered stu­dents to vote. It showed sim­i­lar re­sults.

“Hope­fully this ex­pe­ri­ence left an im­pres­sion on those who didn’t reg­is­ter for our mock elec­tion on the im­por­tance of reg­is­ter­ing to vote once they reach the age of 18,” Soler said. “We have had mock elec­tions in the past, but this year we wanted to sim­u­late the en­tire process, from regis­tra­tion to vot­ing. We wanted stu­dents to un­der­stand that if they didn’t reg­is­ter to vote in our mock elec­tion, they would be un­able to par­tic­i­pate as a voter.”

West Prin­ci­pal Kurt Barker praised Soler for demon­strat­ing the elec­toral process and ex­pe­ri­ence for stu­dents to learn about reg­is­ter­ing and vot­ing. He said stu­dents could fo­cus on un­der­stand­ing the process of democ­racy rather than be­come “caught up in the neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing.”

Soler re­ceived feed­back from the stu­dents who felt more in­vested in the mock elec­tion this year, not be­cause of those run­ning for of­fice, but be­cause they had to reg­is­ter in ad­vance to vote. By do­ing so, it added an el­e­ment of pride in vot­ing, Soler said, to do their pa­tri­otic duty.

He even no­ticed that stu­dents seemed dis­ap­pointed when they could not vote. Some had for­got­ten to reg­is­ter in time or for some rea­son failed to do so. Other stu­dents agreed with him that reg­is­ter­ing proved sim­ple, so it was frus­trat­ing for them that their class­mates did not reg­is­ter or did not make time dur­ing the school day to vote.

A teacher at West since 2002, Soler has hosted three mock elec­tions in the Con­tem­po­rary Is­sues class. The mock elec­tions had been held yearly, with­out the regis­tra­tion por­tion. Of the 1,400 stu­dents, about 730 reg­is­tered. With 53 per­cent of the stu­dent body reg­is­tered, it is fairly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the num­ber of reg­is­tered vot­ers in the United States.

The Con­tem­po­rary Is­sues stu­dents pre­pared a mock regis­tra­tion form that asked for the stu­dent’s name, their his­tory teacher’s name and their his­tory pe­riod. Stu­dents had to de­posit their form into the regis­tra­tion box in Soler’s class­room. They were given two weeks to reg­is­ter with a dead­line of Nov. 1. Fifty-eight per­cent of the stu­dent body reg­is­tered to vote, a num­ber that is fairly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of reg­is­tered vot­ers in the United States.

While it was a sim­ple task, the stu­dents had to take the ini­tia­tive to de­liver their slips in­stead of a teacher col­lect­ing them. Soler no­ticed a re­gret­ful re­ac­tion from sev­eral stu­dents who were un­able to vote be­cause they failed to reg­is­ter, and they watched their friends have fun vot­ing. Soler hopes that when the stu­dents are old enough to vote that this ex­pe­ri­ence spurs them to prop­erly reg­is­ter and vote when it counts.

With the vot­ing polls out­side his class­room, Soler over­heard stu­dents talk­ing about world is­sues that the can­di­dates have dis­cussed, as well as the per­sonal con­tro­ver­sies that have hurt their polling sur­vey num­bers. Soler said the stu­dents seemed to be in­formed from peo­ple talk­ing about pol­i­tics, cam­paign­ing, me­dia re­ports and more.

West stu­dents will be in at­ten­dance with Soler dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial Inau­gu­ra­tion Day on Jan. 20, 2017.

Visit Daily Lo­cal News staff writer Ginger Rae Dun­bar’s blog about jour­nal­ism and vol­un­teer­ing as a fire­fighter at Fire­fight­erGinger.blogspot.com.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Down­ing­town West sopho­more Ryan Ham­mond votes in the mock pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Fri­day held at the high school.

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