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"The fact of the matter is that there are many students and young people today who are passionate about voting and the issues."
-- Bernard Holloway, Maryland Student Council First Vice President
Create your "ideal candidate". What party does your "candidate" represent? What political position is the "candidate" running for? What campaign strategy will your "candidate" use to win the election? Role-play a debate between your "candidate" and a candidate from the opposing party. Ask your audience to vote for the winner.
Write, record, and edit a political advertisement for your candidate. Organize a school-wide contest for the "best ad". Do negative ads win?
Look at the New Millennium Report of the National Association of Secretaries of State at nass.org. Do you agree or disagree with the opinions of the students interviewed? Organize your own student poll about the decline in the participation of America's youngest voters. Share your findings with your Secretary of State.
Design and distribute a voter registration form for the Mock Election. Use an actual voter registration form as your model.
Prepare to tally the votes for your school, school district, or state's Mock Election. How will you guarantee a fair and accurate tally?
Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the importance of voting and/or about why you support the candidates you do. Will they publish your letter? Send a copy to the National Student/Parent Mock Election, G.P.O. Box 363063, San Juan, PR 00936.
Role-play the candidates for Governor of your state and hold debates for the elementary and middle school students in your area. Invite the media.
Volunteer to help at a candidate's election campaign. Write a report on your experience.
Put together a "how-to" kit to help new voters register to vote. Share it with your local election clerk.
Talk to a Vet and ask him what democracy means to him. Tape-record your interview and share it with your class.
Talk to a senior citizen and find out about the history of voting in our country from someone who lived through tremendous changes in our electoral system. Start a class collection of oral interviews.
Organize a "Candidates Forum". Invite competing candidates to come for a special night at your school to meet students and parents and share their views.
Research the candidates and VOTE! on Mock Election Day!
"With every task we complete, we're simply applying the knowledge we learn in the classroom to a real-life project, while still working for a cause and learning more about our passions, in my case, politics."
-- Virginia 2002 Youth Policy Forum co-coordinator, John Kennedy
Establishing a "State's Election Headquarters"
All over the country, high school students man the phones, faxes, and computers as the votes come in from schools across the state. In some states, high school students train, practice on Mock Election Day, and work on the regular Election Day as paid poll workers. In other states, high school students role-play the candidates and hold debates before the elementary and middle school students. Many high school students are in charge of their school and/or school districts' Mock Elections.
Students with driver's licenses have volunteered to drive adults to the polls. Many students volunteered to help out in a candidate's campaign office and gained a real insight into the world of politics and political campaigns.
Here are a few examples of what students around the country have done and are planning for 2022:
Becoming Politically Active
For the last two decades, the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) has been the state coordinator for the Maryland Mock Election. These motivated and politically savvy students began preparing for this fall's election last February. They have been active in lobbying days, legislative forums, and in taking positions on bills that affect youth. Maryland's energetic students are working to produce a new, innovative event for this year's Governor's race.
Town Hall Meeting
High School students from Luz Academy, a predominately Mexican-American charter school in Tucson, Arizona, designed a Town Hall Meeting for their 2000 Mock Election Day event. They invited parents, teachers, politicians, and other interested parties to come to discuss state and national issues. The event was bilingual throughout. The students had questions prepared in advance, made voting stations to collect votes, made campaign signs, and held debates with other students.
Youth Policy Forums
In October of 2001, the Virginia Student/Parent Mock hosted its second annual Youth Policy Forum. Three years ago, five students had an idea that evolved into the first Youth Policy Forum, an event that brings 100 high school students from around Virginia to the State Capitol to discuss issues that affect and concern youth. The daunting task of organizing such an event does not faze its student coordinators, who consider the job a learning experience. Participants in the Youth Policy Forum, often student leaders in their school, travel to the capitol to speak for the students they represent, meet leaders like themselves, and converse with the officials whose faces they only see in the newspapers.
Educating Elected Officials
Students are not the only ones given the opportunity to learn, but also elected officials. The Youth Policy Forum allows students to address delegates about the issues that concern the students, which provides elected officials with student insight to topics such as new driving laws and state standardized tests. Often asked to defend laws that were passed, or support regulations that a room full of high school students oppose, such as a raised driving age, the distinguished guests remain good sports and always comment in the end on what a "tough and informed audience" students are.
"It's impossible to articulate everything I learned with Mock Election. Most importantly I learned to organize a large-scale event, how to get passionate and motivated students involved, how to write letters to distinguished officials and enlist their help, and, of course, to never give up on a crazy idea you're passionate about."
-- Kevin Fogg, Virginia
Creating Opportunities for Student Leadership and Involvement
The Youth Policy Forum is only one method Virginia Student/Parent Mock Election involves students from around the state. Student leaders at the Virginia Student/Parent Mock Election headquarters believe that in order to educate and inform youth about voting, there should be more opportunities for student leadership and involvement. To create these opportunities, Virginia Student/Parent Mock Election writes and distributes lesson plans for teachers on civics, guides for students on how to coordinate a class or school-wide youth policy forum, or how to host a candidate debate, and many other methods of encouraging students from around the state to become involved.
What will YOU do?