To interest students in the candidates for governor and proposition issues on the November statewide ballot, the Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction are sponsoring an October 28 mock election.
“Mock elections are a great way for young people to experience firsthand what it’s like to make informed decisions at the ballot box,” said Debra Bowen, Secretary of State, in a prepared statement. “As students learn about the candidates and issues, they discover how government and politics affect every part of their lives.”
Since 2004, the Secretary of State’s office has sponsored a mock election for middle and high school students every two years. Participation has grown from 647 schools a decade ago to a record 735 schools in 2012, including 88 from the East Bay.
This year, the state is hoping that even more schools will sign up for the 2014 My Vote Mock Election, which will include the race for governor and all seven propositions, said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State.
“We have a few hundred registered and we’re looking to surpass our record of schools participating,” she said. “For some schools, it’s simply a civics or history or government teacher distributing the ballots on a single date.”
But at the other end of the spectrum, Winger said, some schools conduct mock debates between students who study the positions of candidates or proponents and opponents of ballot measures.
“Some students and teachers will really get into it and build classes around elections or civic engagement,” she said. “Some will pick issues, such as the water bond.”
A science teacher could use the Proposition 43 water bond proposal as a starting point for discussions about the drought and how it affects residents and farmers, Winger said.
The Secretary of State’s website includes information about registering your school at www.sos.ca.gov/elections. Click on “My Vote: Student Mock Election.” Schools that register by Sept. 19 will receive free instructional materials and student voter information guides in time for the election. Those registering by Oct. 27 can print materials from the website.
After the Oct. 28 mock election, registered schools can report their results to the Secretary of State to be included in an announcement of the statewide student voting results that will be released Oct. 29. Students can also get “I voted stickers” just like adult voters receive.
Posters and fliers on the My Vote website can help students understand that voting is one way for citizens to help make changes in the state.
One poster says: “Change your ringtone. Change your hairstyle. Change your playlist. Change your oil. Change your BFF. Change your shoes. Change your attitude. Vote. It may be the best change you make all year.”
Schools are encouraged to share ideas for making the mock election fun online. Ideas posted from previous mock elections include:
— Voting in official booths used in the real election or in booths created by wood shop classes
— Enlisting parent volunteers or students to act as poll workers and sign in students, before voting
— Creating “Vote Here” signs for the mock polling site
— Encouraging students to make posters for and against propositions
— Mock debates covered by journalism students with mock press passes
— Inviting guest speakers to address students about the election process and media coverage
— Encouraging students who are 18 or older to talk to classmates about their experience of registering to vote and voting
— Partnering with an after-school program, which could provide a pep rally the day before the mock election and count the votes afterward
Voting in the mock election can help engage students in assignments related to the real election.
“Part of the debriefing was to analyze voter participation in California and the nation,” one teacher wrote. “Students also analyzed and evaluated exit poll data. The fact that they participated in the mock election made these activities more meaningful and relevant.”
Will your school participate in the mock election?