DODDS-Europe school casts electronic votes
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Students at Kaiserslautern Middle School became the first in DODDS-Europe to cast class-election votes electronically.
Tuesday’s elections were held on the same day as elections were held in some U.S. states and helped teach students about their civic duty while tying in technology.
Using makeshift electronic voting booths — computer stations in the computer lab — the students became the first in Department of Dependents Schools-Europe to use an electronic voting system, said Kimberly Howe, the school’s student council adviser and sixth-grade math and reading teacher.
They chose a president, vice president and secretary for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
“I think it’s pretty interesting, pretty cool, that our school got to do this,” said Ekaterina Tangog, an eighth-grader.
The new voting method wasn’t used because of voter fraud or butterfly ballots, Howe said, but to teach students about the modern election process.
“And because last year I spent hours counting votes,” Howe said.
Zoomerang, a free computer program, allowed the school to create ballots for each grade and sent them to every student’s school e-mail account. Youngsters reported to the school computer lab to access their e-mail and send their votes. The Zoomerang program then tallied up the results.
“I think it’s really exciting to use tools that are part of these students’ lives,” said Joy Murphy, the school educational technologist who helped run the electronic program.
All of the school’s 438 students had the opportunity to vote, Howe said, and voting wasn’t mandatory. Even if students were sick at home they could still vote from personal computers.
According to the school, 414 students voted, including 131 sixth-graders, 132 seventh-graders, and 151 eighth-graders.
The ballots allowed students to pick from the given candidates or use a write-in option.
“I don’t know if that was a good idea,” Howe said. “I’m sure SpongeBob (SquarePants) will get a few votes today.”
The candidates spoke to students and gave their positions during the days leading up to the election. The eighth-grade journalism class produced Election Day newspapers to help voters learn more about the candidates.
Campaign posters were hung around the school encouraging students to vote. In the end, students did learn their votes counted as the winning eighth-grade president won by one vote. The winners were announced at the end of the school day and were jumping with excitement through the main office, Howe said.
“When you see how serious it is, that’s exciting,” Murphy said.