NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 3, 2012

A vote for active citizens

Newbury Elementary goes to polls for mock election

By Sonya Vartabedian Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News

---- — President Barack Obama is probably hoping the students at Newbury Elementary School have their pulse on Tuesday’s election.

If their leanings are any indicator, the president will hold onto his seat in the Oval Office for a second term.

A school-wide mock election yesterday had Obama topping Republican challenger Mitt Romney 300 to 266 for the presidency. Another 17 students gave their vote to other candidates on the ballot.

Teachers Mariah Lucy and Kelly Williamson, who organized the school election, tried to make it as authentic to a real voting experience as possible.

Students spent the days leading up to the vote learning about the different candidates. Lucy’s sixth-grade social studies students prepared presentations on the two major political parties and their candidates that they then delivered to each classroom.

“We tried to keep it as balanced as we could,” said Williamson, who teaches second grade. “We read different books and checked websites. We tried to educate in ways they could understand.”

Yesterday, two polls were set up in the school, with parents, School Committee members and central office staff overseeing the voting.

Students in third through sixth grade had to fill out voter registration forms and bring them to their polling place in the school’s main lobby. There, they signed in, were handed official specimen ballots provided by the Newbury town clerk’s office and made their way to authentic voting booths, on loan from Town Hall. After they filled out their ballots, voting only for the presidential race, they deposited them in the ballot box and signed out.

The process was a little simpler for the voters in preschool through second grade, who voted in a special education classroom. The ballots for the younger students included pictures of the candidates to help those still learning how to read. But the pint-sized electorate still had to color in the appropriate oval to register their vote.

“They were passionate about their choices and excited to see what the outcome would be,” Williamson said.

But Williamson said the real lesson wasn’t in who won, but in promoting active citizenship in the students at an early age.

“We wanted to get them excited about the process of voting so when they get older, hopefully they’ll still have that interest and excitement,” said Williamson, who added teachers also are encouraging students to accompany their parents or other adults to the polls on Tuesday to see the experience firsthand.

Still, Williamson wonders how close the Newbury Elementary vote will be to the actual results Tuesday night.

“These mock elections sometimes are indicators,” Williamson said. “I’ll be interested to see if that’s what happens when we watch the results.”