Garrard Middle School students cast 'real' ballots

October 31, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - Election day isn't until next Tuesday, but it came early for the 612 students at Garrard Middle School this week. Sixth through eighth graders took part in a mock election Thursday and today, and one candidate was especially popular among the adolescent crowd.

"Did you vote for the independent dude?" asked Brandee Skaggs of her classmates as she and a handful of others sat on a bench after casting their ballots.

"No, I don't like the independent," replied Austin Rich.

The "independent dude" is Gatewood Galbraith, who is running for Attorney General against Democrat Greg Stumbo and Republican Jack D. Wood.

"He's cool," said one sixth grader. "Because he's gonna make marijuana legal."

Obviously that statement didn't draw the most positive reaction from their teacher, Dawn Simpson.

Teachers do see the importance of the mock election, though. Social studies instructor Donna Snyder organized the election, which had half the school voting on Thursday and the other half today. Results were expected late today or by next Wednesday, when students return following a four-day weekend.


"This is a real life skill activity," said Synder. "I can't wait to tally the votes."

Students were given a platform of issues to study prior to the election, and used the same ballot that Garrard County residents will see Tuesday. They were even able to cast ballots in an actual voting machine, loaned to the school by Garrard County Clerk Stacy May.

"I was very thrilled," Synder said. "Mrs. May was very gracious. There was no hesitation.

"Students are pretty excited." She was teaching about early American history and representative government when she said she got the idea for the mock election.

"And it just came to me that what a wonderful demonstration of representative government voting is," she said.

Students seemed thrilled by the process. Words like "awesome," "cool" and "neat" were expressed by them as they left the booth.

"Pressing all those buttons, " said Cody Buckenroth.

"Then you got to press that green button that says 'vote' and then it goes 'bing!'" echoed R.J. Lasoya.

Students indicated that they were somewhat familiar with the candidates and the issues.

Both R.J. and Cody said they think voting is important.

"Everybody needs a little part in government," Cody said.

"Kentucky wouldn't be Kentucky if they didn't vote," R.J. added.

"I heard that the independent (candidate) was going to try to make marijuana legal," said a student. "I didn't know anything else so I just started pushing buttons."

Students are realizing how important voting is, said Synder.

"What a privilege and a great right that we have," she said. "I think before Sept. 11 (2001), we took those freedoms for granted."

The students had some knowledge of the candidates, she said. Most were familiar with the gubernatorial candidates and she said the student body was mixed on who they were planning to vote for.

"I've heard both," she said. "I've heard it all. 'I'm going to vote for Chandler, I'm going to vote for Fletcher.'"

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