Election is elementary
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent November 15, 2012 4:12PM
Third- and fourth-graders clap at the end of a presentation on voting at Jonas Salk Elementary School in Merrillville, Ind., Nov. 1, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
As the students of Salk Elementary School vote, so votes the nation.
In a mock election held on Election Day, the students in kindergarten through third grade voted overwhelmingly to retain President Barack Obama for a second term. Obama received 560 votes while only 68 ballots were cast for his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
This isn’t the only time the students picked the winning president.
“In the past when we did this, the kids have picked the winning candidate, too,” assistant principal Ann Marie Jaros said.
The students had some help in understanding the election process and the importance of making an informed decision prior to voting from two Merrillville attorneys as part of the Indiana Kids’ Election mock election program held prior to Election Day.
Both teachers and invited speakers emphasized that the decision should be the students’ own, not their parents’ or anyone else’s.
“You need to start talking to your parents about the candidates. But while you respect their opinion, you have to make your own decision. You have to become educated and figure out what’s best for you. You need to have a reason for your vote,” attorney Stacy J. Vasilak said.
The program provides students in grades K-12 with the hands-on experience of voting in a class or schoolwide mock election on Election Day, helping them to develop good voting habits at an early age. It is sponsored by the Indiana State Bar Association, Indiana Secretary of State and the Indiana Department of Education.
Carrie Brown, a first-grade teacher who worked with the student council to put on the mock election at Salk, said the students voted for president only. She said votes were tabulated both on the school and state level.
“We’re here today so you realize how important voting is,” said Vasilak, who told the school’s older students the lowest turnout is among the 18- to 24-year-old voters.
“Voting makes us equal. We all have a say,” she said.
Meanwhile, attorney Terri Mysliwy spoke to the younger group of students about the election process and the different avenues candidates use to get their message across and to get people to vote for them, such as television ads, knocking on doors and placing signs in yards.
The students already had a number of questions for the attorneys.
“What if no one votes?”
“How many times can you vote?”
“Did you know that a long time ago women couldn’t vote?”
“Who do you think will win?”
Vasilak made a point to tell students that it is not OK to pick on someone based on who they’re voting for.
“That would be bullying. Everyone has an opinion,” she said.