Having their voices heard: Middle-schoolers cast votes in mock election

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 21, 2008

By Susan Shinn
CHINA GROVE ó The people have spoken.
At least the students at China Grove Middle School have had their say in the 2008 presidential election.
A mock election was held Friday in the media center, coordinated by Jane Woodward, media specialist, and Pauletta Harrington, media assistant.
The school boasted a 90 percent turnout rate, with 548 of the 606 students who registered casting votes.
At China Grove Middle, John McCain won with 357 votes or 65 percent, over Barack Obama, who garnered 191 votes or 35 percent.
“That really surprised me,” Woodward said Monday morning of McCain’s victory.
It was a good experience for all involved.
On Friday morning, the media center was a beehive of activity, with students helping set up for voting after an early-morning meeting.
Through their social studies classes, students had learned that you must be 18 or older to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen, and if you’ve committed a felony, “you can’t vote until you pay your fine and do your time” according to one poster in the breezeway.
During enhancement time from 8:30 to 9 a.m., students viewed a video put together by Woodward and edited by Brittney Barnhardt, a sixth-grade teacher.
“We wanted to raise awareness for the kids” about the election, Harrington said.
“A small percentage of our students will be able to vote in the next presidential election,” Woodward noted.
The video opened with the familiar strains of “Hail to the Chief.”
Woodward had wrangled many teachers and faculty members together to explain the election process, talk about the nominees for president and vice president and mainly emphasize the importance of voting.
“You need to vote for the person,” said Assistant Principal Jenny Hancock. “Think about who you want to lead the country as a Democrat or Republican. Take that into consideration when you mark your ballot.”
“Vote for a candidate who represents the things you believe in,” said Principal James Davis.
Seventh-grader Casey Lucas spoke in favor of Obama, while sixth-grader Tanner Hunt endorsed McCain.
Woodward said later they were the only two students who stepped forward to appear in the video.
After viewing the video, students voted throughout the day during their social studies classes.
They all seemed to have pretty strong ideas about for whom to cast a vote.
The Post visited with eighth-graders in Su Krotcho’s homeroom.
“I think that John McCain should win the election,” said Ashlin Coley, the school’s student body president. “He could get advice from his children about the world and see what they feel about it.”
She added, “I think it’s gonna be a major election in history.”
“I think the president should be someone committed to good education for students,” said Bonnie Holt, who was casting her vote for McCain.
Destiny Blevins also planned to vote for McCain.
“I like the stand he takes on the war in Iraq,” she said.
“I think John McCain should be president because he has children, too,” Allison Brady said.
Jakira Teasley planned to vote for Obama because she said he would lower taxes and gas prices.
“He will be the first president of a different race,” she added. “It can’t be about race all the time.”
Kierstin Moore agreed.
“You shouldn’t vote because of color,” she said. “You should vote because of what you believe in.”
Haley Lucas was on the fence.
“I like Obama’s tax plan,” she said, “but I like John McCain.”
As a class, the students shared the same concerns of all Americans ó gas prices, the stock market, jobs, the war in Iraq, taxes, rising insurance costs.
Voting began at 9 a.m. and went smoothly.
Woodward decorated the media center in red, white and blue balloons.
Students broke into two lines in alphabetical order, A-L and M-Z. Two student helpers per class helped students place their votes in large boxes and distributed the familiar “I Voted” stickers from the Rowan County Board of Elections.
Students voted only for president.
“We’re keeping it very simple,” Woodward said.
“I think it’s a perfect example of how one or two educators can have a lifelong impact on students,” Davis said, as he watched students cast their votes. “They are planting the seed of how important voting is.
“Lots of people fight for you to have that right, so that you can have your voice heard.”