“Basically, we just wanted them to have the experience of voting,” social studies and U.S. history teacher Summer Erickson said. “A big thing with the social studies department is we want to increase voter registration and voting in general in our area of the county and we thought what better way for the kids to experience voting so they won’t be intimidated of the machines when they get to that age.”
Inside the school gymnasium, students stood in line and provided their identity documentation to students who took the role of a poll officer. Signs hung on the walls reminding students they could not campaign near the voting site nor use cell phones.
“We’re hoping if these students’ parents don’t vote then maybe [the students] can light a fire and say, ‘It was really easy, I can go with you,’” Erickson said. “For the parents that do vote, I encourage them to take their kids with them.”
Senior Jared Smith was able to work as a poll officer during his English class, the designated time for students to vote.
“I think [voting] is very important. It’s our right and people died for our rights and American freedom,” Smith said. “We’re blessed in that we have this freedom in this country.”
At 18 years old, Smith is registered to vote in this year’s presidential election. He said he encourages his peers to become knowledgeable in the process.
“They need to be involved, they need to look into politics and they need to be informed definitely because there are a lot of things going on that people are not aware of and I always encourage people to vote when they can,” Smith said.
Junior Jesika Moore, 17, said she enjoyed learning about voting operations.
“We voted for our class president and then we got to write three girls’ name in for homecoming and then, if we were old enough to vote, we [voted] for the upcoming election,” Moore said. “... It was really easy. You just had to read the directions, hit ‘next’ and move through everything.”
Asked if she would vote in this year’s presidential election if she were of voting age, Moore responded “no.”
“I really haven’t been following the presidential election and everything, but next time I will follow it more,” she said.
County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk spoke with students about the voting process on Friday as well. He acknowledged low voter turnout in this summer’s election and the later runoff and addressed voter apathy and uncertainty in both new and established voters.
“What you’ve got to remember is you don’t have to vote for anything. You can cast a blank ballot,” Kirk said. “Exercising your right to vote and supporting a politician are two very different things.
“Something we’d like to do next year is maybe not have the mock election on the same day I’m speaking to classes and that’s something I’m addressing when speaking [to classes] — realize what you’re voting on ahead of time, do some research, hear some tips on how to do research from non-partisan sources ... and basically try to take that uncertainty and give them the confidence of, ‘I’m going to go out and do this.’”