Election Day at DHS West
Students attending DHS West in the Downingtown Area School District had the opportunity to participate in a mock presidential election this year. The learning process began with a registration push in October and ended on November 4, 2016 with a vote for their favorite candidate.
Dan Soler teaches social studies at DHS West and is the academic advisor of the school’s history club. “We have had mock elections in the past”, he said, “but this year we wanted to simulate the entire process – from registration to voting. We wanted students to understand that if they didn’t register to vote in our mock election, they would be unable to participate as a voter.”
Mr. Soler put his Contemporary Issues class in charge of the election. His class prepared a mock registration form. The forms were distributed to all students in their history class. The registration form asked for the student’s name, their history teacher’s name and their history period. Students were told they needed to come to Mr. Soler’s classroom and deposit their form into the registration box. They were given two weeks to register with a deadline ending on November 1, 2016. Fifty-eight percent of the student body registered to vote, a number that is fairly representative of the number of registered voters in the United States.
“We wanted to see how many cared enough to vote,” said Contemporary Issues student Zoe Friedman. “but we also wanted to give those who may have forgotten to drop off their registration form or who might not have been interested in the election at that time the opportunity to express their opinion on our election day. We set up an exit poll in the hallway and asked those who didn’t register who they would have supported had they been able to vote.”
On Friday, November 4, 2016 the history classes were invited to come down to the hallway outside Soler’s classroom. His class had constructed two voting booths and had decorated the walls in the hallway with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump paraphernalia. Two life-size cardboard cut-outs of the Democratic and Republican candidates greeted the students as they arrived to vote.
The DHS West ballot contained only three presidential candidates, Clinton, Trump and Gary Johnson.
“We decided not to include Jill Stein”, said Zoe Friedman. Since she was not able to get her name on the ballot in every state we felt leaving her off our ballot would allow for a better focus on those that are on all national ballots.”
The results showed the tightness of the race here in Pennsylvania with 47% voting for Hillary Clinton, 42% for Donald Trump and 11% for Gary Johnson. The exit results from the polling of the non-registered students showed similar results.
“Hopefully this experience left an impression on those who didn’t register for our mock election on the importance of registering to vote once they reach the age of 18”, said Mr. Soler.