Students participate in a mock election
High schoolers worked with their teacher to create polls and voter registration forms
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.
Downingtown West sophomore Ryan Hammond votes in the mock presidential election on Friday held at the high school.