Students back Obama, Douglas in mock elections11/6/08

Nov. 6, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

It was a big victory for presidential candidate Barack Obama in the U.S. General Election, and it was also a big victory for the Illinois senator in the Williston School District and at Champlain Valley Union High School, where students participated in mock elections.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Students at Champlain Valley Union High School fill out ballots during a mock election in the school library on Tuesday. The election was organized by students in the Advanced Placement government studies class, and more than 1,000 students turned up to vote.

Mirroring state and national results, students in Williston and CVU overwhelmingly voted for Obama to be the next president over Arizona Sen. John McCain. On the state level, Gov. Jim Douglas also won reelection, according to the mock election results from both schools.

Williston Enrichment Director Richard Allen said the mock election offered lessons in not only social studies, but also for math classes. Many upper house classes were recently focusing on the math behind elections.

The upper house students received ballots similar to the ones voters filled out by official voters on Election Day, but without the local senate and representative races. The results were tabulated by the afternoon and phoned in to the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, where statewide middle school results were collected.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Swift House student Julienne Devita casts her vote for Barack Obama in the mock election at the Williston Central School gym.

The lower houses had a simpler ballot. Students had the opportunity to vote for president, governor and lieutenant governor. They were also able to vote for their favorite charity out four possibilities — the Chittenden Humane Society, the Committee On Temporary Shelter, the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and the Williston Community Food Shelf.

The lower houses will hold a future fundraiser for the humane society as a result of the vote.

Lower house students also overwhelmingly supported Obama for president, giving him 328 votes. Douglas also finished strongly, with 280 votes against Democratic challenger Gaye Symington and Independent challenger Anthony Pollina. For the lieutenant governor race, Republican incumbent Brian Dubie took home 244 votes to hold off Democratic challenger Tom Costello.

First and second grade students from Esprit House filed into the Allen Brook library Tuesday morning to vote. With the help of parent volunteers, the students took their turns at voting booths.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Esprit House students take their time deciding on president and governor during Tuesday’s mock election in the Allen Brook School library.

Both Aidan Johnson and Ben Herskowitz said they voted for Obama for president and Gaye Symington for governor.

Esprit teacher Nancy Leonard said the students had been learning about the election for two weeks and knew a lot about the candidates, mostly from listening to their parents.

“They’ve certainly been involved,” Leonard said.

In the upper houses at Williston Central School, student voters visited the gym by classroom and house throughout the day. Like their fellow students in the lower houses, upper house students backed Obama, Douglas and Dubie with votes of 340, 209 and 281, respectively.

Chris Mallow, a Harbor House sixth grader, voted for Obama, saying it would be an historic choice.

“I like the idea of an African American as president,” Mallow said. “It would represent America better.”

Swift House seventh grader Mahoganie LaStrada voted for Obama and Symington in the election. She said that while she likes Obama, she would be afraid for him if he was elected.

“I’m kind of worried about what might happen to him with all the racist people out there,” LaStrada said.

High school vote

At CVU, all students also had the opportunity to participate in a mock election on Tuesday. Held in the library, the election was organized by Emily Loisel of Williston and Molly Rose Mendell of St. George, students in the Advanced Placement government studies class.

“A lot of people are really excited,” Loisel said. “The school is particularly politically interested.”

More than 1,000 students — 75 percent of the student body — turned out to vote. Obama trounced the competition with 807 votes. For governor, Douglas received 617 votes and Dubie won with 553 votes.

Loisel’s teacher, Vince Crockenberg, said he’s been working with students over the past several weeks to learn the facts behind candidate speeches. Using non-partisan Web sites, students have learned to find the truth in the candidates’ speeches.

“They’re all exaggerating very much so, as we’ve discovered,” Crockenberg said.

The voting booths ebbed and flowed with students Tuesday afternoon, with many excited to be voting for Obama. Williston student Ryan Landvater said Obama got his vote because of his fiscal policies.

“Obama has a strong economic plan,” Landvater said. “All McCain wants is committees.”

Landvater, 17, said he would have liked to vote in the general election, but he missed out by a few months. Charlotte student Joseph Trotter also would have liked to vote, but at 16 was also too young.

Unlike the majority of his classmates, Trotter was drawn more to McCain. He said he did a lot of research on both candidates’ views in regards to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. McCain, Trotter said, has the experience to deal with both wars.

“We’re at the point now in Iraq where we need some actual experience,” Trotter said.


In the Champlain Valley Union High School mock election, 1,408 students, or 75 percent of the student body, voted.


Bob Barr         13

John McCain         170

Ralph Nader         38

Barack Obama        807


Mike Bethel        54

Cris Ericson        36

Thomas Hermann    2

Jane Newton        27

Jerry Trudell        54

Peter Welch         761


Peter Diamondstone     13

Jim Douglas        617

Cris Ericson        15

Tony O’Connor    16

Anthony Pollina    139

Gaye Symington    191

Sam Young        20


Thomas Costello    327

Brian Dubie        553

Richard Kemp        66

Ben Mitchell        30


                WCS        WCS        ABS

                grades         grades        grades

                5-8         1-4        1-4


John McCain        68        49        87

Ralph Nader        31

Barack Obama        340        128        200


Thomas J. Hermann    31

Peter Welch        350


Jim Douglas        209        104        176

Gaye Symington    101        32        61

Anthony Pollina    65        40        42


Thomas Costello    146        75        127

Brian Dubie        281        100        144