A line stretched outside the Eisenhower Elementary media center Tuesday while those in line clutched voter registration cards in their hands. One at a time, they dropped their cards in a box held by an election judge and then sat down at a computer to vote.
All these voters are well under minimum of 18 years old required to cast a ballot, though. That’s because Eisenhower Elementary isn’t an actual polling site and this isn’t an actual election.
The voters are actually Eisenhower sixth graders participating in “Hopkins Votes”—a mock election organized by the Hopkins school district. Students learn about the election in the lead-up to the vote. Younger students just get the basics in a few short lessons. Older students spend more time studying the intricacies of America’s electoral system.
But whatever their age, students learn about how voting works, voting etiquette and what it means to be a good citizen.
“We’re in a democracy, so you get to make the decisions,” sixth grade teacher Betsy Julien told her class before they lined up to cast their ballots.
Hopkins has had a mock election for numerous years, and this is the second one Julien has helped organized.
Fourth through sixth graders vote for both president and senator, using only the names of the candidates. First through third graders vote only for president and use online ballots with the candidates’ names and photos. Kindergarteners use paper ballots in order to speed up the process.
Meanwhile, 26 student “election judges”—helped by three parent volunteers—take the voter registration forms and distribute “I Voted” stickers.
“It really matters what party your parents (are) and (what) you believe in and what you want (the candidates) to do in the country and what they decided to do or plan to do,” said 11-year-old Logan.
For older students, the process more closely resembles the actual system. In the junior highs, students vote for the president and state senators. They learn about the Electoral College, and homerooms vote as members of the college. At Hopkins High School, students vote for the president and state senators using a replica of the actual ballot. They use both the popular vote and Electoral College.
Organizers have sped up the process over the years—and made it more cost-effective. The district now uses free SurveyMonkey forms that provide results instantaneously.
Julien was careful to ensure her students understood, “It’s not a real vote because you’re not 18.” But she said they’re extremely engaged in the process.
“They take it very seriously,” she said. “They look forward to this day quite a bit. It’s important for them to vote in their own cute way.”
- Barack Obama: 443
- Mitt Romney: 97
- Barack Obama: 630
- Mitt Romney: 135
- Barack Obama: 322
- Mitt Romney: 180
- Barack Obama: 487
- Mitt Romney: 111
- Barack Obama: 354
- Mitt Romney: 96
Patch will have further results as they become available.