By Sue Loughlin
TERRE HAUTE — Students and staff at Sarah Scott Middle School voted to make Barack Obama president and Mitch Daniels governor during a mock election Tuesday.
Obama won handily, but the governor’s race was much closer. Obama received 321 votes, while Republican John McCain received 99. “I was surprised it wasn’t closer,” said Ross Cadick, a history teacher who helped organize the mock election.
About 570 students and staff were eligible to vote.
In the governor’s race, Daniels received 141 votes to 124 for Democrat opponent Jill Long Thompson.
Cadick suggested that the paper ballot format — with the governor’s race squeezed in at the bottom of the first page — might have caused some people to forget to vote in that race.
Students who are members of the school’s in-house TV News Crew set up a room as a lifelike polling site and they served as election workers.
Voters even had to show an identification card, and if they didn’t have one, they had to vote using a provisional ballot.
They also had to sign in at the mock polling site, and their names were checked and verified — just like the real thing. They were then issued a ballot and could go to one of several booths.
“We tried to make it as real as possible,” said Tony Smodilla, school media specialist, who organized the project with Cadick. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for kids to learn what voting is like.”
Students and staff voted during their lunch periods.
The ballot also included a hypothetical presidential election — if past presidents such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy were still alive today, who would they choose to lead the nation? Ten past presidents were in the make-believe election, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
The ballot question read, “If miracles could happen, which one of the following presidents would you want to lead the nation?”
Students and staff chose Lincoln, who received 124 votes. The next closest was Kennedy, who received 60.
Students poll workers were enthusiastic about the mock election.
Eighth-grader Calen McDonald said, “It was a great experience.” Voting for the country’s next leader “is a big decision.”
Sarah Scott students are very interested in this election, she said. “We’re taking it seriously,” McDonald said.
She voted for Obama for president. He wants to make changes, she said, and “he would make a difference.”
Heavin Shepherd, a seventh-grader, served as a clerk in the mock election. He voted for Obama because “he’ll do a lot of good stuff” for the country.
Seventh-grader Kaleb Carpenter voted for McCain because “I don’t think Obama is going to do the best for the country.”
Eighth-grader Victoria Zachary said she realizes how important presidential elections are in deciding the country’s future. The next president will have to deal with the war in Iraq, the economy and taxes, she said.
She voted for John McCain because she likes his position on the issues. “He’s not for abortion,” she said. She also agrees with his views on the war in Iraq.
Cadick said that in the past, his eighth-grade students have often shown little interest in voting. They don’t believe their vote will count, or they say they won’t have time.
He hopes the mock election will inspire many of them to vote when they turn 18 and to realize, “Your vote really does matter.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or email@example.com.