Middle School Mock Elections Model Democracy

Students vote in mock election.Election Day is November 8th but for teaching purposes it’s been happening throughout this past week at DMPS middle schools.

Merrill teacher Dave O’Connor has again plugged into the University of Virginia’s Youth Leadership Initiative, which hosts the nation’s largest student mock election, and this time around he joined with his counterparts at the other nine sites to add another layer of authenticity.

“We will be reporting out not only popular vote results from the election but also electoral vote totals,” O’Connor said on Tuesday morning in the library at Merrill. “We are working to actually divide each school up into three ‘states’ by grade level and report popular and electoral vote totals that way.”

Each middle school was allocated its allotment of electoral votes based on the size of its student body, just as each of the 50 states gets a number equal to the size of its congressional delegation, derived from its population. Accordingly, the middle school mock electoral totals were assigned as follows:

Brody 60
Callanan 45
Goodrell 51
Harding 62
Hiatt 47
Hoyt 41
McCombs 56
Meredith 59
Merrill 59
Weeks 58

Add them all up and the total is 538, just like in the genuine Electoral College.

On Tuesday at Merrill democracy was everywhere. Besides the mock election, hallways were wallpapered with campaign posters for the upcoming student council election which will be held, fittingly, on 11/8.

The library was converted into primarily a polling place but after casting their votes, some students checked out books too, before heading back to class. Librarian Carrie Kent stamped the due date inside. “That’ll be due back in two weeks,” she told her customers, i.e., Election Day.

Students were expected to present their school ID card. Those who couldn’t were diverted to a corner reserved for “provisional ballots,” O’Connor’s way of modeling the controversial practice in some states of requiring voters to produce photo proofs of identification as a condition for having their votes count.

It’s something for you to think about,” he said to his own class of 8th graders when it was their turn. “Some feel that rules like that discriminate against the poor and minorities. What do you think?”

At Goodrell on Thursday morning a brief techno-glitch with the iPads and computers in the library caused social studies teachers Josh Brown and Brad Manson to break out old-fashioned voting tools like sharp pencils and blank notecards so early student/voters could cast their ballots on a write-in basis. Later those were entered by teachers for official tabulation.

Democracy, like technology, is a marvelous thing that generally enhances people’s lives, but sometimes needs repair. That’s what elections are for. The popular estimate is that each citizen contributes about “two cents’ worth.” But really, a vote is worth far more than that.

At the polling sites we visited during the week a good and reassuring example was being set by relatively novice voters who are still a presidential cycle or two away from participation in the real thing. Turnout was extremely high and the process was orderly and smooth. Grownups take note.

O’Connor and his colleagues were expecting official results to be available no sooner than Friday when DMPS students will have the day off from school. We’ll share them once they are released.

UPDATE: The University of Virginia made the results of the election available to students and staff on Nov. 3, 2016. See the table below for the outcome of this mock middle school election.

SchoolClintonTrumpJohnsonSteinAbstainElectoral Vote/Candidate
Brody Middle School67%20%3%4%3%60 - Clinton
Callanan Middle School78%12%No report.No report.No report.45 - Clinton
Goodrell Middle School58%16%6%7%5%51 - Clinton
Harding Middle School77%9%1%1%9%62 - Clinton
Hiatt Middle School85%6%1%1%2%47 - Clinton
Hoyt Middle School91%7%No report.No report.No report.41 - Clinton
McCombs Middle School69%11%3%1%8%56 - Clinton
Meredith Middle School75%5%4%12%Not available.59 - Clinton
Merrill Middle School73%13%2%2%2%59 - Clinton
Week Middle School0%0%0%0%100%58 - Abstentions
Middle School Results480-Clinton

Video from Mock Elections

Photos from Mock Elections

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