Education

Who would Belleville East students elect as the next president?

Many Belleville East students will just miss the voting cut-off, but a mock election held at the high school gave 1,916 students the chance to voice their opinion.

And their voice? Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump, and Tammy Duckworth wins over incumbent senator Mark Kirk.

The mock election, coming almost two months before the actual general election, is part of the school’s celebration of Constitution Week. As a recognized Democracy School, Belleville East usually devotes a week to civic learning.

This year, they decided to go beyond having students read documents or fill out assignments.

“We wanted an interactive experience,” Social Studies Department Chair Katie Hoerner said. “And we think voting is one of the most important rights that students can experience.”

To prepare for the day, the department plastered election signs — exactly 100 feet away from the polling place, of course — around campus and set up electronic voting booths in the library.

“The County Clerk’s office provided the booths and worked the polls, so it mirrored an actual Election Day,” Hoerner said.

But merely having the electronic voting booths isn’t the only authentic part of the process.

To vote, the students visited the library with their social studies class, or alone if they weren’t taking social studies and were given plastic voting cards. They waited to be called for the next available booth. Once there, they swiped their card to bring up an electronic ballot to vote in both the Presidential and Senate races.

So these students voted among four senatorial candidates — Democrat Tammy Duckworth, Republican Mark Kirk, Green Party Scott Summers and Libertarian Kent McMillen.

The ballot didn’t initially include the third party candidates for Senate, or even the third party candidates — Jill Stein and Gary Johnson — for the presidential election. But it turned out that these choices are what the students wanted.

“Many students asked us if there would be other options, at least for a write-in,” Hoerner said. “I think it speaks to how they feel about the election, and I was proud that they wanted that.”

The students themselves felt proud that they had this opportunity, proudly displaying their complimentary “I Voted” stickers on their shirts and backpacks.

“It felt real in the sense that most high schoolers can’t vote in this election but could experience how to vote and how that process works,” senior Imani Hill said.

Many of the students took this learning experience — even if it’s not real — seriously.

“They were much more nervous than expected, even walking up to the election booth,” Hoerner said. “They would look at their candidates and think about who they were going to choose. (But) they would walk away and looked like they really accomplished something.”

Clinton received 1,002 votes to Trump’s 493, Stein’s 104, and Johnson’s 142 ballots. Duckworth claimed 888 ballots to Kirk’s 823, Summers’ 117, and McMillen’s 73 votes.

Ivy Truong is Belleville East student who interned at the Belleville News-Democrat over the summer.

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