Capturing the Youth Vote

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Students learn about the election processStudents learn about the election process

By John Whitlock

President Barack Obama may not know it but he has secured the support of the first graders at Owen County Primary School.
Thursday, the entire first-grade class cast their vote for president with the help of Owen County Clerk Joan Kincaid and her staff.
Kincaid provided a real voting machine for the kids to use.
Owen County Primary teacher Brandy Neal said casting a vote for president was the culmination of a unit on government and elections.
“We have been doing a unit on the election process,” Neal said. “We wanted to expose them to the entire process including having them use actual voting machines.”
Before the election day, the classes discussed the two major party candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
The students had a lot of questions about the candidates although not everyone wanted to know about policy or their stand on social issues.
“We talked about the candidates’ education, their families and their experience,” Neal said. “We didn’t get into the heavier issues. We kept it very age appropriate. We made sure to keep it very simple,”
Neal said she avoided the more complex issues and focused on the men and less on political rhetoric.
“It’s hard to talk kids this age about the economy,” Neal said. “The kinds of questions we covered were what kind of dog they have, what are their favorite food, anything age appropriate.”
Neal stressed to the students that who they vote for is their decision and their decision alone.
“The point of the unit and this experience is that we wanted to show to the children that voting is a very personal experience and it’s up to them to decide who to vote for,” Neal said. “It’s my hope that this will get them involved in the state and national elections when they grow up.”
Although Obama carried the mock election over Romney 84 to 56, Neal said the sitting president had an inherent advantage.
“You have to remember that for these kids, Obama is really the only president they have known,” Neal said. “The ones who supported Romney probably heard about him from their parents and support him because they know the parents do.”
While they waited the vote Thursday, the students colored pictures with an election theme.
Student Gabe Carter, a Romney supporter, said he voted for the challenger because he knows his parents back the Republican candidate.
Carter offered another reason he supported Romney.
“Cause,” Carter said.
Student Hailey Gilbert, who wore a handmade Obama hat, said she supported the President because of health-care issues.
“I like Rock Obama because of insurance and stuff,” Gilbert said.
Neal said the students had a lot of fun with the process and the teachers were impressed with the outcome.
“We’re proud of what they did,” Neal said. “They went in there, made a decision and hit that big red button. There is nothing more American than that.”