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Will a Mock Election in Schools Reveal the Nation's Vote?

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Ashton Marra
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Sixth grade social studies teacher Cody Cunningham shows his voter registration card to his class.

As millions of Americans head to the polls Tuesday, just one week ago, children across the nation voted for the next presidential candidate in a mock election. The “Every Kid Votes!” event began with the 2004 presidential race, and every election year since, school children across the country have accurately voted for America’s next president. Will that trend continue this year? 

Cody Cunningham teaches sixth grade social studies at Calhoun County Middle School. This year, his class is one of thousands across the nation participating in the Studies Weekly “Every Kid Votes!” Mock Presidential Election.

This is the first time Calhoun County Middle School students are participating.

“And I thought, well hey, this is a really cool idea, so let’s just do it," Cunningham said, "Cause it’s an election year, it’s gonna make the kids are already excited, and you know, what’s a more perfect avenue than social studies to bring in research and reading and talking about an issue that they really enjoy.”

Cunningham has been preparing his students over the last four weeks for this year’s mock election -- assigning them readings about the Electoral College, what it means to be a citizen, and even about the candidates themselves.

But there’s no question it’s been a controversial election year, with scandals and heated debates. Calhoun County Superintendent of Schools Tim Woodward says while some of the political attacks may not be appropriate for middle schoolers; he still believes they should be exposed to the political process.

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Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A student at Calhoun County Middle School votes during the mock election.

“I think that the younger that we begin to talk to them about, you know, about how our government works, civic responsibility, understanding our system of basically having two parties; how that works, and you know beginning to be able to evaluate and think for yourself about, you know, what do I think, and which party best represents my way of thinking,” Woodward explained.

Studies Weekly CEO Ed Rickers agrees. He says that’s what the mock election was created for: to get students interested in the election process at a young age.

Since the national mock election began in 2004, students across the country have accurately selected the winning candidate. Rickers says that’s likely because the students ultimately are a reflection of what they're exposed to at home.

He joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting via Skype.

“There’s a lot of adults saying this person’s bad, or this person’s less bad or worse, or you know, there’s so much, there’s scandal, there’s all these things, and it just adds so much complexity, that, I think at the end of the day, the kids just sort of go with whatever vibe they pick up from mom and dad.”

Back in Cunningham’s classroom, his students walk a few at a time to the nearby computer lab, or their “polling place.”

Another sixth grade teacher, Daniel Cosgrove, checks their voter registration cards and asks a couple of them who they’ll be voting for.

"I’m voting for Trump, because I think that he’ll make our country great again and he said that he was going to bring back all the coal mines that they had shut down and give everybody the work that they needed,” said 11 year-old Akeara Webb.

Webb is like many of her classmates who said they were voting for Trump for a variety of reasons -- reasons we see reflected in the national conversation. He’s going to build a wall and stop illegal immigration, one student said. 12 year-old Kylie Murphy voted for Trump, too.

“I like what he stands for, because I don’t believe in like, abortion, and as a Republican, just as a Republican in general, that’s what a Republican stands for; they don’t stand for abortion,” Murphy said.

There were a few Hillary Clinton supporters in the Calhoun County Middle School sixth grade class. Like 11 year-old Jaylen Jett.

“I think that Hillary, she has done a lot of good things as, whenever she’s in, not in the White House, but as like senators, and I thought that she did a lot of good things, and I personally think that she’s more of a statesman than Donald Trump is, so I think that she would be a better person for the office,” said Jett.

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Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Sixth grade social studies teacher Daniel Cosgrove checks in a student who will vote in the mock election.

Teachers Cunningham and Cosgrove view real-time results on a computer as their classes’ votes come in. As they expected, Donald Trump is the clear winner.

An interactive map on the Studies Weekly website shows Trump handedly took West Virginia, but for the rest of the nation, Hillary Clinton comes out the clear winner in the mock election with 376 electoral votes versus Trump’s 159.

Tonight we’ll learn if students across America truly are mimicking what they hear at home and accurately chose the next president of the United States. Polls in West Virginia close at 7:30 this evening.


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