Students try their hands at the vote

Mock elections, other exercises give kids some practice at participating

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter



Across Clark County, students have been getting hands-on civics lessons by casting their votes in mock elections.

Here’s a sampling of what’s going on as the next generation of voters prepares for Election Day 2012.

• Secretary of State’s Office

Some 2,011 Clark County students cast ballots in a statewide student mock election run by the Secretary of State Elections Division. Of those students, 563 were kindergarten through fifth grade and 1,448 were sixth-12th graders.

Clark County student voters favored Democratic candidates, but by a smaller margin than their peers statewide.

The Obama/Biden ticket received 63.11 percent of the Clark County vote to 36.89 percent for the Romney/Ryan ticket.

In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Jay Inslee received 54.68 percent of the votes to Republican Rob McKenna’s 45.32 percent. Initiative Measure 1240, concerning the creation of a public charter school system, was approved with 50.21 percent of the vote.

Results were tallied Nov. 2.

Statewide, 38,848 students participated in the mock election, more than double the 18,000 who participated in 2008.

On the Web:

• Votes 2012: Evergreen High School

Evergreen High School was the Washington public school selected to participate in Votes 2012, a national mock presidential election in which 60,000 students — from one public school and one private school in each state — cast ballots.

Civics teacher Patti McMaster, who led Evergreen’s program, said 1,160 students took part locally. The results of the mock election will be announced Sunday.

Student assignments included volunteering five hours to a political campaign and analyzing political commercials to learn to “cut through the junk to determine where candidates stand on issues and how that aligns with what students believe,” McMaster said.

Many students are planning election-night gatherings and will color in McMaster’s electoral college maps as the results are announced.

“The goal is that they leave much more informed than when they entered,” said McMaster, who gives her students a voter registration form on their 18th birthdays.

On the Web:

• KIDS VOTE 2012 in Clark County

As an elementary school student in 1960, Bridget Schwarz had the opportunity to cast her ballot for John Kennedy in a classroom mock election.

“That was so meaningful that I wanted Clark County students to have that same experience,” Schwarz said from her Ridgefield home, the headquarters for Kids Vote 2012.

Schwarz used SurveyMonkey to set up an online presidential election site for Clark County students and worked with schools to promote the site. On election night, Schwarz will count votes and report by precinct, determined by school district, school and grade level.

“This is about civics. It’s not about politics,” Schwarz said. “I’m having more fun than anyone working in the election.”

Looking ahead to the next presidential election, she already has secured “Kids Vote 2016” as a business name and URL. Kids can vote until 8 p.m. on Nov. 6.

On the Web:

• Evergreen High School

Jeanie Knecht’s at-risk credit recovery students in combined English, world history, U.S. history and Washington state history classes are tasked with the challenge of accurately predicting how each state’s electoral votes will be cast in the presidential election.

Most of the students are seniors; many are 18 and can vote.

Students studied the Constitution, electoral votes and past elections; watched the presidential debates, and learned about current events by reading newspapers, including The Columbian. Knecht said her students are not easily motivated, but they have been enthusiastic about this project.

Each student’s completed election scorecard is due on Monday. If a student’s predictions are as accurate as or better than Knecht’s, the student receives an “A.”

In the seven times she’s taught this project, only three students have predicted accurately.

“If they’ve been paying attention, most of the students will do as well as I do,” Knecht said. “That’s the beauty of it.”

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4530;;