Eagle County students vote in huge numbers in mock election
With 2,825 valid student votes cast district-wide, the final tallies were:
Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine 61.6% or 1,741 votes
Donald J. Trump/Michael R. Pence 21.5% or 606 votes
Gary Johnson/Bill Weld 9.6% or 272 votes
Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka 7.3% or 206 votes
EAGLE COUNTY — You can enjoy elections that are not dumbed down. Local students just had one.
Almost 3,000 of the 4,100 local middle and high school students cast ballots in a mock election that featured, among other things, several of life’s teachable moments.
At Eagle Valley High School, 570 of the school’s 850 students cast ballots, said Douglas Little, one of the school’s social studies teachers.
This is Little’s 12th year as a teacher, including 10 teaching government and a couple more teaching social studies.
The object of this lesson is to teach civic responsibility, and why elections are important, Little said.
“Elections are the heart of democracy,” Little said. “Democracy cannot exist without the opportunity of the public to participate.”
Then there’s this basic fact of political life.
“Voting in elections is a learned behavior. This teaches them how,” Little said.
Every presidential election cycle sees mock elections, said Dr. Charles Vogel, another Eagle Valley High School social studies teacher.
They put together lessons based on the mock elections, including an educational film and a non-partisan slide show that laid out the difference between the presidential candidates.
‘The students were fairly well informed. It’s not just a personality contest. There are real differences between the candidates,” Vogel said.
Students were also civil, unlike many of the adults in their lives.
“There was no grousing and no one was vociferously against one or the other,” Vogel said.
Public education’s part
Superintendent Jason Glass explained that public education has played a vital role in the electoral process since our republic was founded.
“Dating back to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, one of the core purposes of public education is the preparation of students to be active, informed and participant citizens,” Glass said. “Public schools have a responsibility to graduate students with the skills they need to engage in their own governance and participate in our nation’s representative democracy.”
And just because there are two main candidates, you don’t have to vote for them.
The local mock election ballot had four presidential choices, the two major party presidential candidates, and Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.
Schools had lessons that included discussion questions, study guides, and policy position resources.
Beyond sound bites
The object was to help students think beyond sound bites and develop their own positions based on their review of the evidence.
Because you learn by doing, the school district’s technology crew made voting easy.
The ballot was done through Survey Monkey, and students could vote on their phones or computers, which is actually a pretty good reason to stare at their phones.
Because this isn’t Chicago, they only got to vote once and no dead people cast ballots.
Just like Election Day, voting continued throughout the day, and voters received a sticker.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.