Students engage in mock election
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney ran a close race in the Pendleton High School mock election Tuesday.
Civics teacher Shannon Ables said the vote will likely come down to one or two ballots.
Advance Placement government teacher Brian Johnson will release the results from ballots cast by 500 to 600 sophomore, junior and senior students at the end of the school day Thursday. Leading up to Tuesday’s mock election, Johnson and senior government teacher Shannon Ables taught their students how to make an informed vote.
Discussion in Johnson’s class Monday focused on Measure 80 which, if passed, would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years and older. Students took turns reading the legislation aloud, but they couldn’t help but pause to ask questions about pot laws that have been enacted in other developed countries.
Johnson had his 200 students spent three hours of class time reading through all the ballot issues. Jacob Rickman, 18, said discussing the legislation with classmates forced him to consider different sides of the issue.
“There’s a lot of different opinions, and it’s good to look at the sides ... not to be narrow minded,” said Kiera Barfuss, 17.
Johnson asked questions that couldn’t be answered just by reading through the ballot language. For the marijuana issue, he pointed out that it’s unclear exactly how much it would cost the state if the law were passed. He used a League of Women Voters guide to show them how to do further research on the issues.
“Democracy takes work, and it’s important that students understand that,” he said.
Many students said they don’t think they will ever know enough to make an informed vote, but Johnson said that’s not true. He said they have taken more time to understand the issues than many voting in the actual election.
“Hopefully the majority of people that vote know more than I do, but you can’t really suspect that,” Jason Lange, 18, said.
Shannon Ables tried to teach her 60 senior civics students how to form their own opinions before voting. She starts every class by asking them to identify the facts of three news stories, and had them research the ballot issues. Her goal is for them to have intelligent discussions about their views.
“I see a curiosity and a yearning for more knowledge,” Ables said. “They just don’t know how to articulate (their opinions).”
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 1, 2012, edition of the East Oregonian and was written by reporter Chris Rizer. It has been posted to this web site with permission from the East Oregonian.