Last Thursday, students in Donna Kranz’s global issues class were tabulating the results from all the classes in the school. To make sure that the counts would be accurate, she paired students up so they could count their ballots twice. She said one student would read one side of the ballots aloud while the other would tally the results. Then they would switch roles when reviewing the other side.
Every student in the school was given a paper ballot in which they could vote on every local race. This included races for United States Congress, judgeships, state representatives, Trigg County Judge-Executive, magistrate and city council. Every unopposed race was on the ballot as well. Kranz finished tallying the ballots Friday afternoon, but said she would be keeping the results secret until after the real election because she didn’t want to be accused of trying to influence which candidates won, especially in the city and county races. She said that her students were dying to find out who the winners were, though.
In addition to voting in the mock election, students were allowed to elect students to represent them as nonvoting members of the fiscal court and city council, as well as a couple of school-based positions. Kranz said she asked Mayor Lyn Bailey if he would be willing to let a high school student sit in on city council meetings and give any input he or she might have, and he said yes. She asked judge-executive candidates Stan Humphries and Marc Terrell if they would allow the same type of arrangement with the fiscal court if elected, and they said they would.
Seven students were on the ballot and all will be serving in some capacity. Skye Darnell and Alex Jenkins will be attending city council meetings. A. J. Bridges and Matt Ledford will be representing the youth of their districts on the fiscal court. Samantha Ladd will be attending the high school’s site-based decision-making council meetings. Each of them will serve in a one-year nonvoting term. In addition, Gerard Gonzales and LaQuisha Boyd were elected to the school’s student council.
Kranz said she was impressed by the insight her students had gained by helping her coordinate the mock election. She said they learned that both political parties have representatives at the polls to keep things fair. When she questioned them if they felt safe knowing that the ballots would be locked in her classroom, they said they would because she didn’t have a vested interest in the results. She said the students told her they would feel more secure with electronic voting equipment than with paper ballots, for example.
“Paper ballots are open to human mistakes and it’s easier to commit fraud,” she said. “They could see that it rests in the hands of the counters.”
Kranz said she thought it was a positive sign that some students left blank slots on the ballots. She said she advised students that if they had never heard of a candidate or didn’t know anything about a particular race, that they shouldn’t vote for anyone. She also said, though, that if students didn’t vote for a straight party ticket, they tended to vote for the name at the top of each race. Kranz said she also explained to her students that a meeting is called before every election to draw the names of the candidates in order to determine whose name is listed first in each race.
Chase Biddle and Karen Latham were two freshmen who were paired up to count the ballots. They said that in 2004, they had voted in a mock election at the middle school as part of a social studies class, but that they had used voting machines. Counting the ballots themselves was something that was new to them.
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.