The Huntsville Item
October 28, 2008
by Kristen Edwards

HISD Students get chance to cast vote in Junior Fellows' Mock Election

Even though the national voting age is 18, elementary and middle school students in the Huntsville Independent School District have an opportunity to cast their own ballots this week during a special set of mock elections.

All this week students at Samuel Houston Elementary, Stewart Elementary, Gibbs Pre-K Center and Mance Park Middle School visited mock poll locations set up at their schools, cast their votes for one of the actual presidential candidates and learned more about the voting process.

The mock elections, sponsored by the Sam Houston State University Political Science Junior Fellows and the Huntsville Family YMCA, will continue today and Thursday.

“We think of voting as a gateway engagement, or a low investment act of political involvement,” said Megan Bryant, president of the SHSU Political Science Junior Fellows. “This was our first attempt at a mock election, and we think this is important because we know people who vote are also more likely to be engaged in their community.”

After the first two days of mock elections, Political Science Junior Fellows Adviser Mike Yawn said the students who had participated so far had shown true enthusiasm at their polls.

“Everyone has been really excited to get to participate in these mock elections,” Yawn said Tuesday at the Stewart Elementary mock election. “I think this mock election process is making everyone more aware of how an election works.

“I’m happy to say that a surprising number of the students participating are well informed about the candidates and even some of the issues.”

During the mock elections, students were asked to sign in with their first and last names before casting their votes for either Republican presidential candidate John McCain or Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

After they had cast their votes, Yawn took group shots of the students who participated and allowed them to reveal who they cast their votes for.

“As far as their understanding of what’s going on, there is a big difference between the kindergarten students and the fourth-grade students participating,” Yawn said. “Still, I think this is a good experience for students of all ages, regardless of the amount of knowledge they had going into it.”

Two representatives from the Huntsville YMCA — Wade Schrock and Josh Holden — took on the responsibility of transporting the mock election materials from campus to campus, and they have also been responsible for making sure the young students understand how to cast their votes.

“We envisioned this as a community-building exercise, and we wanted to work with community organizations like the YMCA to make it a success,” said Laken Jenkins, an SHSU Political Science Junior Fellow. “We began this exercise in the hopes of providing a positive learning experience in civics to school children, and in the process, we feel we have been granted a lesson in civics ourselves by working with such a great organization.”

The SHSU Political Science Junior Fellows are a civic-minded organization which seeks to promote education, public service and professionalism.

The group includes a total of seven members who have devoted more than 4,000 hours volunteering for the community during this semester only.

For more information on the mock elections, contact Bryant at megan.bryant@shsu.edu.