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Joyce Endee

GMS students get hands on experience in democracy

Students at Gilford Middle School took part in their own mock election organized and run by a group of eighth graders. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
November 20, 2012
A group of eighth graders got a first hand view of the election process when they helped stage a mock election for their fellow students.

On Election Day, Gilford Middle School students cast their votes in their own election. The election was organized, run, and managed by eighth graders Hannah Sullivan, Kaylee Lemire, Connor Craigie, Anthony Eldridge, Haley MacLeod, Mark Young, and Sean Desautelle . The mock election was done as part of a civic program on the election by teacher Rob Meyers.

Students had been learning about the candidates and the election process leading up to the Nov. 6 election. Meyers said throughout the program students were excited and curious about the election. He said students would come in asking questions about certain ads when they came out. Students also brought in political ads to discuss and put together fact sheets on the candidates.

"It was nice to see them explaining what the actual issues are," Meyers said.

The culmination of this program was a mock election held for the rest of the middle school.

"We got the whole school involved in the election," Lemire said.

Students acted as moderator and clerks at the polls; taking on the tasks of passing out ballots, checking people off, escorting people to the polls, keeping lines in order, and collecting ballots.

The polling place was set up in the Family and Consumer Science room, which was large enough to accommodate the students from each classes coming in and out. The town of Gilford leant the election four real voting booths.

Participants in grades five through eight gave their names at the polls, had their name crossed off in two places, received their ballots, voted, and turned in their ballots. The 8th graders then tallied up each vote. The votes were collected and tallied up by grade.

To mimic the electoral college, each class was given a certain number of electoral votes by size that were counted up with the popular votes. Classes of 15 students or less received two electoral votes, classes of 16 to 20 students received three votes, and classes with 21 or more students received four electoral votes.

This demonstrated the actual election process, where the winner of the election is determined by the number of electoral votes received.

Craigie said the class learned how the results are a mix between the popular and the electoral.

"It doesn't matter how close the election is; it matters who's on top," Young said.

President Obama won the GMS election, receiving 189 popular votes and 44 electoral votes. Mitt Romney received 126 votes and 15 electoral votes. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Constitution Party candidate received around five votes between the two.

Meyers said the kids were at the center of everything, from organizing to facilitating to taking photos at the polls.

For four of these students, the next general election will be a more hands-on experience; Eldridge, MacLeod, Young, and Desautelle are 14-years-old as of this year and will be 18 when the next presidential election occurs. They said they look forward to being a part of the actual process in 2016.

"You feel like you could be a part of it," Desautelle said.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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