Students at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science overwhelmingly chose Democrat Hillary Clinton for U.S. President during a mock election held Monday at the school.
The turnout comprised 89.7 percent of the student body of 235 juniors and senior attending the school who were eligible to cast ballots.
Mock election coordinator and government teacher Julie Heintz, along with the school’s three political clubs – Young Republicans, Young Democrats and Young Independents – set up a voting station in the school’s lobby to poll the opinions of the students – some that were able to actually vote in today’s general election and others that will have to wait for future elections to cast their first real ballot – about who they think should be the next President of the United States.
Two students at a time acted as poll workers during hour-long shifts from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., marking names off the poll book and handing out mock ballots that included all the presidential candidates.
“We basically want the students to have a chance to voice their opinion, to look at the civic process…and also we’re interested in seeing how our vote (Monday) reflects basically what the nation chooses (Tuesday),” Heintz said.
Clinton won by a landslide with 54 percent of the votes. Republican Donald Trump received 18.5 percent of students’ votes, while Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson totaled 8.1 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein came in at 7.1 percent. Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party’s nominee, received 1.4 percent; The American Delta party nominee Roque De La Fuente obtained .5 percent of students’ votes; Jim Hedges, the Prohibition party nominee received no votes; and 10.4 percent of students wrote in a candidate.
Appeal of third-party candidates
Sarah Tierce, an 18-year-old senior, said she voted for Stein on both her mock ballot at school and her absentee ballot for the general election.
She said she voted third party after learning about each candidate in her government class and doing a little of her own research.
“I don’t really agree with Hillary or Trump because neither of them are very trustworthy, so I looked at the other candidates and picked one whose policies I agreed most with and who I felt was the most trustworthy. And Jill Stein is kind of an open-book candidate,” Tierce said.
She said she thinks more people, even generally strict Republicans and Democrats, will look to third-party candidates in this general election.
“I feel like, since the approval ratings are so low for these two candidates, a larger number of people are going to look at the other candidates this year,” Tierce said.
Achintya Prasat, the president of the school’s Young Republicans, said he thinks many Republicans will consider voting third party, too.
“For a lot of Republicans, it’s not necessarily voting for our party. It’s a vote for the U.S.,” Prasat said. “So, a lot of people are voting for what they think is best. A lot of (Republicans) are voting for Gary Johnson.”
Some still undecided
Prasat, 18, said he is still undecided, but he is considering writing in a Republican candidate from earlier in the race when he votes today in the general election. He didn’t want to say who he voted for in the mock election.
Many students said they did not vote third party, however, because it would be a waste of a vote.
Seventeen-year-old Kaleigh Leiva is a member of the school’s Young Independents. She voted for Clinton on her mock ballot.
“I feel like, either way, it’s going to end badly,” Leiva said, referring to today’s presidential election results. “In all likelihood, it will come down to Clinton or Trump.”
But students agreed the mock election was a fun way to learn what it’s like to cast a vote. Russel Hatcher, an 18-year-old member of the Young Republicans, said, for him, it brought home just how important his vote is. He also cast an absentee ballot in the general election.
Even with all the different political opinions among the students, they also agreed that it is important to vote in real elections.
“It’s definitely a civic duty,” Prasat said. “I think you can’t really see a shift in leadership in America until you start voting for who you really care for. I know there are a lot of (people)…that say it’s just a waste of a vote, but in reality, what needs to happen is for people to actually vote for who they believe in. Then, we can really see leaders emerge that really represent the United States population.”