Sacred Heart School mock election is a study in politics

Sacred Heart Cathedral School kindergarten students cast their votes for president during the school’s mock election on Tuesday. Upperclassmen Sydney Glasgow and Stewart Preston, sitting behind the table, assist the students with their ballots. Teachers Jai Haluski and Toni Lamb were overseeing the process. Students pictured include Christian Grover, Sydney Jabaley, Ivy Piehl, Keegan Smith, Alice Parris, Lillie Murphy, Frank Ligay, Tanner Muir, and Peter Nguyen.
Photo by Bill Brewer

News reporters, TV cameras and political analysts weren’t huddled outside the halls of Sacred Heart Cathedral School on Tuesday, but maybe they should have been.
The school was a hotbed of election activity as students took part in the electoral process, bringing to life what they’ve been studying in social studies since the school year began.
Political pundits trying to get a read on the 2012 presidential election might be interested in learning that candidate Mitt Romney won the Sacred Heart School mock election, tallying 81.6 percent of the vote, or 453 student votes, to President Barack Obama’s 19.4 percent, or 109 student votes.
Each Sacred Heart student cast a ballot for U.S. president in the mock election that mirrored the real thing going on in every community across the country.
Class by class, from kindergarteners to eighth-graders, students lined up at election stations set up around the school to fill out their voter registration and cast their votes. Younger students were assisted along the way by several upperclassmen named to a school election commission.
There was no last-minute “politickin’” at the voting booths outside the front office and the principal’s office. The debates over qualifications, political philosophy, and party affiliation already were held as part of the social studies lessons.
For eighth-graders Julia Newman and Jake Coffee, the mock election and the studies leading to it are learning tools to help them better understand the U.S. political process.

Sacred Heart Cathedral School kindergartner Sydney Jabaley prepares her ballot for U.S. president during the school’s Nov. 6 mock election as classmate Keegan Smith observes. Also watching the process are fellow kindergartners Alice Parris, Lillie Murphy, Frank Ligay, and Peter Nguyen. Upperclassman Stewart Preston is assisting the young students with their ballots.
Photo by Bill Brewer

“We have learned what the candidates stand for, the electoral college, and other things. When we discussed it in class, we held debates,” said Julia, who represents peer mentoring on the student council.
Jake said student interest in the mock election has been strong and voter turnout was good.
“People have been excited about this,” he said, noting that the school exercise has helped him better understand the presidential race and all its elements. “It helps me know what they’re talking about.”
Jake and Julia agree the mock election and the social studies lessons surrounding the presidential campaign make them want to stay interested in politics.
That’s a good sign for fifth-grade teacher Theresa Ciancone, who is the school’s social studies curriculum leader.
She said anticipation among students for the mock election has been high and the activity is a good outlet because many of them are disappointed they can’t vote in the actual election.
Ms. Ciancone pointed out that all students had to present voter registration with picture identification before they cast their ballots. The younger students drew a picture of themselves on a card as part of their registration, but upperclassmen had to submit a photo ID in keeping with new voter regulations.
She explained that each teacher has been giving instruction on the election process according to grade level, so as kindergarteners and first-graders learn what a president is and does, seventh- and eighth-graders learn about political parties, platforms and the electoral college.
“This is something we did four years ago. It’s something the kids talk about and want to be involved in,” Ms. Ciancone said. “The hope long-term is that they will continue this active involvement. God gives us free will, and this is one of those opportunities he gives us.”
And as with any election, prognostications can cover both sides of the political aisle.
Jake, who is vice president of Sacred Heart’s student council, was confident Mitt Romney would win the school election.
Julia offered a prediction beyond the school voting booths. “I think Romney will win in the school, but I think Obama will win nationwide.”

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