Kansas has continued its reputation as a Republican state, even among voters too young to actually vote. A presidential election of all kindergarten through 12th-grade students in USD 428 schools was held recently, engineered by Great Bend High School teacher Kylee McDonald and her students.
“The final vote totals separated the two major candidates by less than 100 votes,” McDonald said. “Donald Trump received 834 votes from students, while Hillary Clinton received 785.” The idea for the election actually started last April when McDonald was seeking a way to involve her students in giving back to the district and its teachers. Her political action proposal was met with enthusiasm and she was given the go ahead to conduct the mock election. McDonald created a Google Form for the election ballot that students would complete electronically at each school building.
“The students in my class began researching each political candidate and finding out information on major issues as well as their personal beliefs,” McDonald said. “We had a guest speaker, former teacher, Rose Kelly, of the League of Women voters come speak with the students about the election process,” she said.
The students learned there is a list of rules that polling officials are required to follow, including that any person who speaks about or attempts to persuade other voters to a specific candidate within 10 feet of the polling location can be placed under arrest. Kelly shared with the students a sample ballot and typical behavior expectations. Her students, acting as poll workers, learned to utilize the Google Form document that records each response submitted. They wore special election uniforms that included a black dress shirt with the “Vote” logo attached.
When arriving at each school building, the students set up the physical structure of the polling location, provided students with directions and helped them use the computer, especially in the younger grades. When students from each school entered the polling location, they were required to state their name, grade, and teacher, McDonald said. Each student was required to provide a signature. They then received a stamp and were directed to a voting booth to cast an electronic ballot.
Students in grades 7-12 were required to show photo identification at the sign-in table. Like all Kansas voting sites, no one without a photo ID was allowed to vote.
“The students reported they learned a great deal of information about each candidate and the impact of a person’s statements and claims on others,” McDonald said. “Now that all the data is collected a document will be released so teachers can sort the data and create graphs, discuss and share ideas from real student responses across the district.
“I am really glad we were able to give students an opportunity to experience one of the greatest rights we have as citizens of the United States,” she said. “I hope this experience allows students to feel more confident when they make their first official voting experience at the age of 18.”