A group of voters know their votes won’t be counted in Flagler County. They might not be happy about it but, paraphrasing the Eddie Cochran song, Summertime Blues – “They’re too young to vote.” Most of the schools in Flagler County conducted mock elections on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
“Some were upset that their votes don’t really count, and that it’s a mock election,” said Principal James Menard, at Imagine School at Town Center.
The mock election was made possible by the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections office, and is something the office has done in the past.
“We teamed up with Kaiti Lenhart, supervisor of elections,” Old Kings Elementary Media Specialist Kim Weeks said. “The Supervisor of Elections provided the website, used all over Florida, for the school elections.”
As Menard watched the 400 students file in an out of the makeshift voting area, he recalled a mock election he voted it.
“I remember when I was in eighth grade we had a mock election in school, I think it was Bush vs. Dukakis, and I remember that experience, and learning about voting.”
The fourth through eighth grade students at Imagine School participated in the election – or not.
A soft-spoken student, TJ Smith, explained why he exercised his right, not to vote.
“Some of it has to do with my religion, because I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what we believe is in the Kingdom of God,” TJ said. “Besides, with Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, and everything that I have seen, I’m kind of neutral about it. It doesn’t matter to me who becomes the next president. I feel it’s kind of between the lesser of two evils.”
Gabe Auletti was still sitting at his voting booth long after the rest of his classmates voted, and left the room. Deep in thought, it was as though his vote would count.
“I didn’t really know for sure, when I came in, so I had to think about it for a while,” he said. “One of my parents is Democratic, and one of my parents is Republican, so I don’t know which one to choose. I had to think about it myself.”
Old Kings encouraged all of the students to participate in the election from kindergarten to sixth grade.
“We wanted the entire school to have a say and a voice,” Weeks said. “By the end of the day we will be able to see the charts, and who won.”
In an effort to keep the students focused on the facts, Katie Monsanto’s sixth grade OKES students wrote essays about the Democratic and Republican candidates, steering clear of personal opinions. The students visited other classrooms to read their essays.
When the younger students arrived in the OKES media center, they were a little surprised to find four additional names listed, along with Clinton and Trump.
“You will see some other candidates on there that we haven’t talked about, but Donald and Hilary are there at the top,” Weeks told the students.
Students like Penelope McDonald, a first grade student, and 12 years away from casting an actual ballot, said she researched the candidates.
“I know that most of them lie, because they just want people to just vote for them,” Penelope said. “I go online to see what the truth is. I am excited that there is a girl trying to get elected president. I am not very happy about how Trump is not nice to women.”
Teresa Rizzo, a first grade teacher, said her class had focused on the voting process.
“We have been voting in the classroom to understand how the voting process works. We voted on the Jack-o-lantern face, what project we wanted to do, and things like that,” Rizzo said. “They’re passionate about it because they hear their parents talking about it.”
Michelle Eaton had the sixth grade students talk to her class about the facts.
“They basically read their essays that gave information about both,” Eaton said. “The candidates themselves we stayed away from, because it gets very divisive. We talked about the process, how they go from the caucus , and how they had to be nominated by their party.”
Brittany Sanner, a fifth grade student at OKES said she didn’t want to offend anyone, but didn’t think Clinton should be running for the presidency because of her emails. Brittany is looking forward to when she can vote, and might even consider a career in politics.
Wadsworth Elementary opted out of the mock election this year, at least for president, but there has been campaigning -- for favorite snack -- popcorn, cotton candy, or snow cones. Principal John Fanelli, and assistant principals, Kara Minn and Fred Terry, will have a moderated debate for the students, on why their choice of snack is the best. On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the students will vote, and the winning snack will be served later that week.
“We decided to put our own twist on it this year, one that we thought would be more purposeful and relevant to our students,” Fanelli said. “We wanted to teach them the process the way it’s supposed to be, in an honest, clean and fair fashion, without bringing in all of the stuff going on in this election.”