As the 2012 general elections near, hundreds of students turned out to vote in a mock election organized by CIVITAS that was designed to simulate the real life voting experience.
The results were decidedly Democratic. In the race for President, incumbent Democrat Barack Obama beat Republican former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 60.1 percent to 33.1 percent. In the race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein beat Republican Autism activist Elizabeth Emken 62.2 percent to 37.7 percent. In the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Dr. Ami Bera beat incumbent Republican Dan Lungren 62.6 percent to 37.3 percent.
The results were acutely more Democratic than how California’s 3rd congressional district has voted in the past. In 2010, Republican Dan Lungren defeated Dr. Ami Bera by a margin of almost 7 percent. Barack Obama did win the district over John McCain in 2008, but only by a slim 0.5 percent margin.
CIVITAS coordinator Linda Reed says that she has noted her students becoming more liberal over the past decade.
“When I first started CIVITAS this area was highly Republican,” Reed said. “During the Bush years, however, less and less of my students affiliated with with the Republicans and more and more with the Democrats.”
Youth have a tendency to be more liberal, but only 708 of about 1700 students at Rio voted. It could be that the ones interested were the Democrats.” Reed notes, however, that the results could indicate who will win in the general elections on November 6.
“We’ve been doing this for four to five years for both primary and general elections,” she said. “In the last few, the students that voted have been right on not only on the candidates, but also on the propositions.”
There were three propositions voted on in the mock election. Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty in California, was voted down 53.3 percent to 46.6 percent. Proposition 36, which would ease California’s three strikes law, passed 66.9 percent to 33.0 percent. Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically modified foods, passed 63.2 percent to 36.7 percent.
The mock election was organized with the help of the Sacramento County Elections Office. Junior Holly Hillis was instrumental in pulling off the election and making sure it simulated the procedure for a voter in an actual election.
“I chose to organize the Rio student body mock election both as an extension of my internship at the Sacramento County Elections Office and because of my interest in the voting process,” Hillis said. “The elections office provided us with the voting booths, ballots, and vote-counting machine that we needed to make this election as accurate and real-to-life as possible. I asked all of the Rio teachers to participate, and we had an incredible amount of interest.
“After I reserved the small gym for the day of the election, I scheduled the classes to come at certain times throughout the day so there wouldn’t be too much of a rush or lull in the flow of voters. Students were able to vote privately in an official booth and see their ballots be counted as they ran through the machine.”
The true-to-life procedure for the mock election, including genuine voting booths, ballots, and the sign-in process, was utilized as a way to teach students how to vote when they are eligible and to remove intimidation or fear from the voting process.
CIVITAS hopes that the mock election will encourage students to vote when they’re older. Youth currently have the lowest voter turnout rate of any age group. Only 48.5 percent of eligible voters ages 18-24 cast a ballot in 2008. ”I think that many people do not realize how important their vote and their opinion are, and how much they can really affect their own future by voting,” Hillis said. “Elected representatives, whether they are city council members or the President, are the people who propose and pass the laws that directly affect us as citizens.
Two seniors who voted in the mock election were Zachary Baumbach and Raven Balafoutis.
“I voted for Obama because I support his policies over Romney’s,” Baumbach said. “He has a plan while Romney doesn’t know what he’s going to do.”
“I voted for Romney because I don’t agree with what the Democrats stand for,” Balafoutis said. Balafoutis offered insight as to why s
he thinks Rio students are more liberal leaning and the importance of voting. “I think they’re more liberal because they’re mostly middle class or below,” she said. “It’s important to vote because you want the right man running your country.”
Several Civitas senior projects over the past month, from the forum on Propositions 30, 32, and 35 put together by Tessa Stangl, to the forum on Propositions 30 and 38, and Measure N put together by Sabine Wilson, to the forum on Proposition 34 put together by Aaron Prohofsky to the forum on the national Presidential campaign put together by Noah Lightman, were also designed to help students become more engaged in the political process and to give them the facts to make informed choices when they vote both in Rio’s mock election and, for those 18 and older, in the general elections on November 6.
“I voted for Barack Obama because he supports the values I believe in,” senior Tyler Reeves said. “The CIVITAS forums about the propositions were good, especially the one on the death penalty.” “I voted for Mitt Romney,” senior Devin Farrell, “I haven’t seen a lot of benefits from Obama and I don’t like how Hillary took the blame for Benghazi just because Obama is running for election.”
“I really liked the forums. I really enjoyed the death penalty forum. Both sides were well represented and it was hard for me to make up my mind in the end.”
“How can people make wise decisions about who’s in charge if they’re not involved in the political process?” Linda Reed asked. “You can’t complain if you don’t vote.”