October 29, 2010

Votes of students tabulated

150 schools take part in state mock election

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- The trio from Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield each voted for a different candidate.

click image to enlarge

Clarissa Hemphill, left, and Kaley Norsworthy, both students at Fort Fairfield Elementary School, enter results from Maine’s Student Mock Election 2010 into a computer during the “Rally and Tally” event Thursday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Mikayla Carr picked Republican Paul LePage. Even though independent Eliot Cutler addressed the students in person, she said she'd stand by her vote.

"I think we need to have better school systems, and he would help with health care, too," Carr said.

The three members of the school's student council cast their votes Thursday during the Maine Student Mock Election "Rally and Tally" event at the Augusta Civic Center.

Nick Deckert said he was torn between Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell. He voted for Mitchell at school on Wednesday, but said he might have voted for Cutler if voting was Thursday.

"An independent governor might change things up," he said.

Lexi LaMarre remained firmly in favor of her vote for Cutler, the candidate she studied as part of a class project.

"His ideas on school and energy costs were very, very interesting," she said.

The mock election, with 150 schools participating this year, was sponsored by the Secretary of State's Office.

Voting for gubernatorial and congressional candidates took place at the individual schools. Students at the Augusta event wrote down the results phoned in from schools around the state, while other students dealt with e-mailed returns.

On Thursday evening, many of the school votes had been called in, giving LePage 28 percent, Cutler 27 percent and Mitchell 23.5 percent. Independent Shawn Moody attracted 13 percent, with independent Kevin Scott earning 7 percent.

For Congress, students selected the Democratic incumbents, choosing U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, 1st District, over Republican challenger Dean Scontras, 56 percent to 44 percent, and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, 2nd District, over Republican challenger Jason Levesque, 57 to 43 percent.

The students approved the Oxford County casino 57 percent to 43 percent and supported bond issues that would fund clinics and preservation of land and working waterfronts.

All results were to be posted almost immediately on the secretary of state's mock election website, www.maine.gov/mockelection/.

While collecting the data, Andrew Small, an eighth-grader at Piscataquis Community Elementary School in Guilford, answered the phone politely: "Can you tell me the name of the school, please?"

His schoolmates had gone to collect pizza for their dinner, and brought him a share as well.

"I get to see what a bunch of other schools think about the candidates," he said.

Small is an ardent fan of Scott, and proudly displayed his candidate's sticker on his face.

"I just think he would be a good governor," Small said, who also liked hearing Scott speak on Thursday. "I thought he had a lot of compassion and is unselfish," he said.

Cony Middle School students Devin Beckim and Bradley Beeckel both supported Cutler.

"We studied the platforms, and he seemed he would be the best one for governor," Beckim said. Beeckel concurred.

Several legislative candidates appeared at the event, including Democrat Craig Hickman of Winthrop, who is challenging the incumbent Rep. Patrick Flood, a Winthrop Republican.

Hickman brought vegetables from his organic farm to dress up his table. "I made it like a farm stand," he said. "Children love a prop."

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap told the students about the importance of the election process, how it works and how much commitment is required from those who choose to be candidates.

The event was interspersed with student stump speeches, candidate speeches and votes -- cast inside voting booths on loan from the town of West Gardiner -- for the event mascot.

Dunlap put his reason for coordinating the event on the Mock Election Night Program: "An increasing number of young people are coming from homes where one or more of their parents do not vote; this remains the single, most important factor in whether they ultimately exercise this right. One recent study determined that frequent classroom discussion around election issues, teacher encouragement of the expression of opinions, and student participation in a get-out-the vote or mock election effort can make a significant difference."

Dunlap said Thursday afternoon that the student 2008 mock election proved a fairly accurate predictor of the 2008 election.

"They called every one but the 1st District," he said. "President, U.S. Senate, District 2 in Congress, the people's veto, the citizen initiative and the bond issue."

Betty Adams -- 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

 

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