Although Election Day is still six weeks away, lines formed in the lobby of Lacey Middle School as students prepared themselves to enter a voting booth and cast their votes for president and U.S. Senate Wednesday morning.
“Every year when I go to vote, there’s a feeling of apprehension,” history department chair Paul Groben said. “We want our students to have the experience so it won’t be a hindrance that deters them from voting.”
The Election Board of Ocean County lent the school two voting booths. Each student would vote at some point during the day. After registering according to place of residency—Forked River, Lanoka Harbor or Bamber Lake—each student entered the voting booth and made their selection.
Although the actual ballot in the voting booth only contains candidates for president (President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney) and Senate (U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos), Groben wanted the students to also vote for House of Representatives and Lacey Township Committee.
Using a paper ballot, the students made their selections and the history teachers will make the final tally by the end of the day. The ballot included Republican Congressman Jon Runyan and Democrat Shelley Adler for the House of Representatives and Democratic newcomer Shawn Judson and Republican incumbents Mark Dykoff and Gary Quinn for Lacey Township Committee.
“I became more familiar with the process,” Jared Rush a member of the student government said of his experience.
“It makes you more interested in the process,” Julia Cosaluzzo, another member of the student government said.
As of 11 a.m., half the school had voted. The student body is made up of 700 students.
“We’ve been doing this for quite a long time,” Groben said. The school has held an Election Day for at least 13 years, which is as long as Groben has been there.
The results have been “interesting,” Groben said. “In the past, they’ve been remarkably accurate and almost in every case, opposite of the township.”
One year, the student body came within one-tenth of the actual result, he said.
In 2008, the Presidential Mock Election results were as follows: 371 students or 53 percent of the student body voted for Barack Obama while 326 students or 47 percent voted for John McCain.
Obama won the 2008 race with 52.9 percent of the votes.
Education, Parental Influence
“My theory is that when you’re young, in middle school, the kids go against their parents' views,” Groben said.
That could be the case with some students but the four members of the student government who were assisting with elections believe parents' influence comes into play to some extent while education also helps.
Prior to voting, the geography teachers for seventh grade and American history teachers for eighth grade devote time each day to current events and elections.
“I learned what I have to do to vote,” Cosaluzzo said, adding that her vote was based on issues such as taxes.
The teachers used an Election 2012 guide by Scholastic to teach the students, Groben said. The magazine includes bios of each presidential candidate and a breakdown of various issues such as the economy, national security, health care and the environment and energy. There is also a test that the students can take to determine which party they most agree with.
The lessons benefited Aubrey Herb and Kylie Weissenburger, also members of the student government.
“I found out I’m more a Democrat than a Republican,” Weissenburger said, based on the party quiz the class took.
The test also revealed that Herb agreed most with the Democratic Party.
“I like how Obama killed Osama. I like Obama as president,” she said. For the candidates she knew little about in other races, she voted Democrat, she said.
But if it were not parental views influencing the votes or the education, many students would simply vote for the candidate they are most familiar with, Herb and Weissenburger said.
“They go with the person they know,” Weissenburger said. “Obama’s the president.”
“Last week I learned about Romney. I know more about Obama than Romney,” Herb said.
Both students predicted that Obama would come out on top of the mock election.
The results are announced over the school’s public announcement system the following day.
“It’s really a great time to be a history teacher, every four years,” Groben said.
Return to Lacey Patch Thursday or Friday for the results of the mock election.