Thursday, Nov. 3, was Election Day for fifth-grade students in the classrooms of Danae Hicks and Alecia Walker at Northside K-8 School. They took part in a mock election conducted by The Warren Record’s Newspaper In Education Literacy Program with help from the Warren County Board of Elections.
The NIE literacy program delivers free newspapers to over 1,300 students in Warren County and offers teachers with a multifaceted education tool for the classroom. The goal of the NIE program is to teach not only reading, comprehension and grammar skills, but also to teach civic literacy, good citizenship and community awareness. The mock election was an exercise in civic education.
Each student was given a workbook entitled, “Let’s Learn About Electing the President,” and an American flag pencil provided by the Warren County Board of Elections. The workbook helped students understand the voting process from the foundation of the three branches of government, qualification for who can run for president, primaries and caucuses, national party conventions, campaigns, and leading up to Election Day and Inauguration Day.
When students were asked if they knew it was an election year, the classroom answered with a resounding, “Yes!” One student reflected the sentiment of many adults with a loud, “God, yes, I know it’s an election year!”
On the day of the mock election, Warren Record staff and teachers answered questions and addressed concerns and reviewed the election process. Students were given paper ballots that featured names and pictures of those on the ballot for president, North Carolina governor and Warren County commissioner. Students made their votes known by coloring in stars beside the picture of the candidates they chose.
Some questions and issues about voting that came up were, how does someone decide who to vote for, and what do you do if you don’t want to vote for anyone on the ballot. Another question was how to know what to believe in political advertising.
Facial recognition came into play, as many students remembered candidates from political ads and speeches. Most students recognized Walter Powell, who was on the ballot for Warren County commissioner for District 5, from his visits to their school.
After casting their ballots, each student received an “I Voted” sticker. Exit interviews were conducted with students to learn what issues take priority in their lives.
Many students were first-time voters and enjoyed participating in the mock election process, while others had taken part in other mock elections and appreciated the picture ballot to help them recognize candidates.
Some issues on the mind of students were the strictness of the Warren County Schools uniform policy, and the need for more sidewalks and community playgrounds in Warren County. Others expressed a need to help the homeless, finding homes for children in orphanages and a need for a cleaner Warren County.
Darian Watson was excited to vote, and Ella Flanagan said voting was important “so you can choose the right people to help improve playgrounds and stuff. And make things better.”
Bryce Gist was a second-time mock election voter and thought this mock election was “cool.” He said that it is important to find homes for kids in orphanages.
Samaria Silver thought that maybe county commissioners could address the strictness of school uniforms and said the mock election process was a good one.
Daniel Hargrove knew about the candidates from hearing about them on the news.
Senti Bullock said a concern for the United States is the need to be better people.
The mock election provided an opportunity to discuss how important it is as a United States citizen to vote. Students were reminded that not all countries allow their citizens to make a choice in leadership through voting. They were also reminded that in the not so distant past there was a time in this country when women and African-Americans were not afforded the right to vote.
The students were advised to take the lessons learned during this practice election and build on them to become informed and involved citizens of not only Warren County, but also the world at large.