Elementary students practice their right to vote
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Students at Nicholson Elementary School cast their vote for president on Tuesday as part of the Mississippi Promote the Vote program.
Kerri Snyder, a 6th grade reading teacher at Nicholson, has organized the mock elections for the past three presidential cycles, she said.
“I hear about so many people that do not vote,” Synder said.
She said that the mock vote allows her to discuss the election process with her students and encourage them to vote when they turn 18.
For the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students, learning about the Electoral College system can be “eye opening,” Snyder said. “They think the popular vote is it.”
They also read Scholastic News articles about the candidates and their platforms, Snyder said.
Some of the students in her 6th grade class participated in the mock election four years ago and were excited to be poll workers this year, Snyder said.
“It helps them continue to remember to vote, especially when they are 18,” she said.
“We think it’s so important for young men and women to cast a ballot and see how easy it is, and to continue to cast ballots for their entire lives,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said in a phone interview, adding that it’s not just about presidential elections, but also elections at the local and state levels.
On Tuesday, each class at Nicholson Elementary School entered Snyder’s classroom and patiently waited in line until it was their turn to cast their vote.
Snyder’s 6th grade students helped run the voting center, instructing younger students about the proper method to fill out the ballot.
“This is a great opportunity for students to be educated in the process by understanding it,” Picayune Superintendent Dean Shaw said.
Over 250 schools and 85,000 students in the state will be voting in the mock election, Hosemann said.
Many of the students have discussed the election at home, Snyder said. In class, the students discussed what they saw on the news or during the debates, Snyder said.
“They hear their parents discuss the issues…[at school] it allows them to discuss among themselves what issues are important to them,” Hosemann said. “Juniors and seniors in high school may be more interested in college debt than the Supreme Court nomination.”
Snyder said she also hopes these discussions at home encourage parents to participate in the election process.
These kitchen table discussions often spur parents to go vote, Hosemann said.
“You’ll see sometimes where the kids will differ from their parents. Those are really good things for mentoring and for healthy discussions for family around the dinner table,” he said.
Picayune Memorial High School holds voter registration each fall for students 18 and older, Principal Kent Kirkland said.
Pearl River County Circuit Clerk Nance Stokes visited the school on Sept. 6 and helped students register, Kirkland said.
“I think it’s more of a learning process; a lot of our classes talk about voter registration, but this puts it into practice,” he said, adding that many students register every year.
The Promote the Vote program also includes art, writing and other contests for K-12 students.
These programs will help encourage children to either run for public office or participate in the election system when they are older, Hosemann said.