It's classroom democracy: Students go to the polls

By Ronald MacArthur

Students in schools throughout Delaware went to the “polls” this week in a mock election. In the Seaford School District, Jonathan Griffith, a guidance counselor at the high school, coordinated the program. He said that students in the fourth to 12th grades took part through their social studies or civics classes. “Our goal was to get everybody to vote,” he said. “Excluding 100 seniors, every other student had a social studies class.” Voting took place on-line in each school’s computer labs. Prior to the mock election, students studied the election process in their social studies and civics classes. “It was up to the individual teacher how to work in the material. Those who were taking civics classes obviously spent more time on the subject,” he said. Griffith said that two high school students, sophomores John Blakeney and Josh Miller, will accompany high school teacher Tom Chapman, to the culmination of the voting process at Legislative Hall in Dover on Friday, Oct. 29. “They will be reading the results from the district in a convention-type atmosphere,” Griffith said. He added that the two students were selected because of their interest in politics and government. They are both members of the student government. “They both follow politics very closely,” he said. The convention will be broadcast live on the internet from 10 a.m. to noon at http://webcast2.state.de.us:8080/webcasts/Election.shtmo. Griffith said that, surprisingly, most students vote like their parents. “The mock election is an indicator of what will happen in the real election a week later,” he said. “Representatives in the state will be looking at the results very closely.” “The students are excited that they get to take part and vote on the internet,” Griffith said. “And it’s such a controversial election this year. They like to see how they compare to other schools and the real election. And we try to make it as real as possible.” He said that students at the middle school had to fill out registration cards prior to the election and present them to vote. Students at the high school used their identification badges. Students were presented with paper ballots to study before the election.
Among the first to vote on Monday were fifth grade students in Hollie Taylor’s class at West Seaford Elementary School. The students voted during their computer lab time under the supervision of Kari Sullivan, who presented each student with a “I Voted” button. As she sat down in front of the computer to vote Aerin Hastings was confident about her votes. “I know who I am going to vote for,” she said. “I got some help when I talked with my parents because they have followed the election more.” Another member of the class, John Jones, was outspoken about the upcoming election when he said he voted for President George Bush. “I’ve heard that George Bush is doing really well. I like his television commercials,” he said. “I hear John Kerry talking about doing this and that with taxes and the war but who knows if it’s true. “And I voted for the Republican Bill Lee for governor because I’ve seen a lot of those little bumper stickers ‘Ban Ruth Ann’ out there,” he added. “On the others, I clicked for the Republican.” He has already decided how he will vote when he is older. “I’ll vote for the person on three things. 1. not raise taxes; 2. make good choices; and 3. not nuke the country,” he said. Cory Penrod said that he talked over his voting choices with his parents. “They liked everyone I picked,” he said. “I’ve always liked George W. Bush, he’s been a good president and I’ve always liked Ruth Ann Minner - she’s been a good governor from what I’ve seen and read.” He added that it was hard to make the other selections. “I really didn’t know that much about some of them,” he said.

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