Local Teens Vote In Mock Elections

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, October 30, 2008

And although the results aren’t real….local elections officials say there are a few real outcomes: more young people are engaged in the political process…and they’re registering to vote. 

Students at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento’s Pocket-Greenhaven neighborhood are getting ready for classes. 

This past Tuesday, about 500 of the school’s seniors took part in a mock election at the school gym. They voted for US President, Sacramento Mayor and several California ballot propositions. Vincent Schiro was one of the students who voted. 

“I love politics. I mean I watch CNN. It’s my favorite channel.” 

The 17 year old says he wishes he could cast a real vote on Tuesday. 

“I kind of got disheartened when I realized I couldn’t vote. I was hoping. I mean, I’m just a year behind which really kind of sucks for me.” 

Schiro says the election is a hot topic of discussion…and not only at school. 

“Just talking with a bunch of my friends. We all root Obama, We have some friends that root McCain. But we’re all very excited to see what’s going to happen on November 4th

Seventeen-year-old Kassie Moreno is a mock poll worker…helping her fellow students sign-in before they cast their ballots. 

She says some kids are tentative about the whole thing. 

“Like they don’t think it’s too cool or it’s more of an adult thing. But if they get practice at it then they’ll be more likely to do it when it comes around for real.” 

Although this a gym with hard wood floors and basketball hoops…it’s set up to look like a real polling place – complete with a dozen voting booths, three ballot scanning machines, and two staffers from Sacramento County’s Elections office.   

“As they drop their ballots into the scanner, they really are amazed at how it works.” 

Baldemar Garcia is one of those staffers. He says the students are eager to take part in the simulated act of voting. 

“Even though this is what you call a mock election, they really get into it. We’re hoping that when they go home, they talk to their parents and ask them ‘mom, dad, are you registered to vote?’ 

This is the fourth straight year that the county’s Elections Office and Sacramento City Unified School District have teamed up to hold mock elections at local high schools. Sally Leake heads the district’s “Get Up – Stand Up Vote” program. She says they want to show kids there’s no mystery behind voting.   

“I can’t tell you how many times kids have come up and said ‘oh, I’m not afraid to vote now.’ Because we don’t think of the kind of things that their afraid of but everything’s new to them. And some kids, if their parents don’t vote, they don’t even really know what it is.” 

Another goal of the program is to get kids so fired up about voting that they actually register once they turn 18. And it appears to be working. County Elections Officials say since the mock elections began four years ago, the number of 18-to-24-year-olds registered to vote has just about tripled…to 15-thousand.     

Kennedy High students are most interested in the presidential race. But they’re also debating weighty topics on this year’s California ballot…like same-sex marriage and abortion. Government instructor Alida Imbrecht says it’s a perfect teaching moment. 

“Well they’re excited about it. We’ve been certainly discussing all the issues. We have a strong voice against Proposition 8. Proposition 4 is another one that they feel strongly about with parental notification. Probably a little more divided on parental notification than on the gay marriage issue.” 

Student Vincent Schiro says those classes can get a little heated. 

“We actually get kind of riled up in Ms. Imbrecht’s Government class. And it’s a great thing to know that all my classmates are enthusiastic about the election and how America’s future is going to turn out.” 

Meanwhile…as for how Kennedy High School’s mock election turned out…students overwhelmingly elected Barack Obama president and Kevin Johnson Sacramento Mayor. They also rejected Propositions 4 and 8.