If Kentucky's 2014 elections were up to the students of Calloway County High School, Mitch McConnell would win re-election in the US Senate, Jack Rose would be Murray's next mayor and the county would have a new Parks Tax.
CCHS held a mock election yesterday for local, state and national seats before the November 4th mid-terms.
Political science teacher Marshall Ward says the school started administering the exercise every election cycle since 2000 as a way of invigorating young people to vote.
"We've tried to make it as realistic as possible to show the students the nuances that they're going to have to deal with out in the real world," said Ward. "For example, your employer is not going to give you the day off, your work mates may or may not vote so there's some peer pressure there. So we operate a before-school, after-school, during-lunchtime mock election to show them that it's going to be some work to actually go out there and cast your ballot."
He says the exercise is a real push to prepare the next generation of voters as those in the 18-24 age group are notorious for low turnout numbers.
“Quite frankly, they have the most to lose long term," said Ward. "I think they don't really see the need immediately. Many of them are still in school, things are being taken care of for them, they're not out earning their living yet. Voting is kind of like saving for retirement, they don’t see the need at 21 to save for retirement because it’s not a pressing issue for them.
"I think we need to do a much better job of giving them a sense of urgency to correct some of the issues we have nationally. So then,when they're 30, 40, 50-years-old, some of these things will hopefully be fixed, but they can move on to making other important decisions.”
Despite Ward's efforts, only about 20% of the 966 students registered and only about 13% actually voted.
Junior Giselle da Silva says she thinks most young people have a general apathy towards the political process and follow the direction of their peers.
“Most people don’t vote because they’re just intimidated by it," said da Silva. "And their parents haven’t voted so they get influenced by that and say ‘If they didn’t vote and my friends didn’t vote, why should I vote?’”
Close to 30 local candidates campaigned at the school ahead of the election addressing the class on their personal qualifications, positions and general concerns.
"They became much more informed after that," said Ward. "A lot of these students had never met these people, didn't know their names, didn't know much about the offices they held. We learned those kinds of things together and I think that helped them understand the process, the actual jobs these people do and then the views these types of candidates bring to the table and what they hope to accomplish if elected. To me that's an excellent exercise for a high schooler or even an 80-year-old to figure out how they want to vote."
Senior Brian Craig, a self-declared conservative, said seeing the candidates conversing face-to-face with young constituents gave him more insight.
"I thought a lot of the candidates, just because they're Republican, they'd have good ideas," said Craig. "But, honestly, it seemed like some of them didn't even know how to explain themselves to students and were very intimidated by us."
Ward said the students took much more interest in local elections rather than state and national ones.
“We’ve had 30 candidates come to our class in the last three weeks," said Ward. "My guess is the races for mayor, county attorney, sheriff and some of the city council folk seems to have brought about the most interest. Even our amendment on whether to have a Parks Tax or not, which seems to have been the most controversial, hot button issue.”
Using real pen-and-paper ballots from the Calloway County Clerk’s office, the students voted in the proposed Parks Tax 65-44.
Senior Mark Tyler said he was behind the referendum.
"A lot of people have had mixed views on it but I agree with it," says Tyler. "Most see the word 'tax' and think they're going to hate it and don't want to pay any extra money. But you need taxes to fund everything else that you do. The amount of money you spend on taxes is directly related to how well your community is doing."
Ward says this mock election isn't just a stunt, he wants it to be a lesson for his political science students.
"I'm trying to teach them that voting is not a requirement or a duty, it's a responsibility, and in my view that makes it even more important because you have lots of folks out there in this community and across the country who don't even bother to register, those who register don't even bother to vote," said Ward.
"So especially in a mid-term election, you've got a very, very low number of folks who end making decisions that impact the rest of us for at least two years. The importance of the exercise is extremely vital for understanding how a democratic republic is supposed to work."
The results of the Calloway County mock election are:
- Mitch McConnell - 75
- Alison Lundergan Grimes - 47
- David Patterson - 12
- Ed Whitfield - 90
- Charles Hatchet - 38
Mayor of Murray
- Jack Rose - 73
- Bill Wells - 43
Mayor of Hazel
- Kerry Vasseur -58
- Allison Hillard - 47
- Michael Conley - 79
- Nikki McMillen Crouch - 63
- Bryan Ernstberger - 75
- Ricky Lamkin - 45
- Steve Stevens - 67
- Antonia Dunn Faulkner - 59
- Sam Steger - 75
- Greg Dunning - 41
- Gene Dowdy - 13
2nd District Magistrate
- Bill Duncan - 73
- Tim Todd - 47
3rd District Magistrate
- Don Cherry - 70
- Bucky Erwin - 43
Murray City Council Preferences:
- Dale Taylor
- Robert Billington
- Joe Crawford
- Burton Young
- Johnny Bohannon
- Jane Shoemaker
- Danny Hudspeth
- Jason Pittman
- Pete Lancaster
- Jeremy Bell
- Dan Miller
- Pat Scott