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Christine Rollins, a sixth-grader at Sollars Elementary School on Misawa Air Base, Japan, counts ballots Thursday in the school's mock presidential election.
Christine Rollins, a sixth-grader at Sollars Elementary School on Misawa Air Base, Japan, counts ballots Thursday in the school's mock presidential election. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Sollars Elementary School’s fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders went to the polls Thursday and overwhelmingly voted for the incumbent in a mock election.

President Bush garnered 243 votes, with Sen. John Kerry mustering just 70. Independent candidate Ralph Nader tallied a lackluster 13.

The school’s votes will be counted as part of National Mock Election Day, when millions of students across the United States, as well as U.S. students living elsewhere in the world, get the chance to cast mock ballots in an exercise to promote civic awareness.

Sollars’ gifted-education teacher, Lori Grant, organized the school’s mock election to get students interested in and excited about voting — so they’ll exercise their right to vote when they turn 18, she said.

Voting gives them a voice, Grant said: “It’s their way of choosing who is going to make the laws for them.”

It was Grant’s first mock election at Sollars, but she also held one in Mississippi in 1988, when the elder George Bush faced off against Democrat Michael Dukakis. In that national mock election, “George Bush Sr. won,” Grant said, “so we kind of wonder if this is a predicting factor.”

Sollars’ fifth-grade social studies teacher Michael Tate said the kids in the national mock election tend to “pick a winner, because they’re mirroring what’s being said at home.”

But talk to the Sollars students, and some say they don’t even know for whom their parents voted.

“My dad says it’s a secret, that that’s what voting is all about,” said 10-year-old Stephanie Wirtanen, who said she checked off Bush on her ballot.

Grant said the students researched the candidates and made campaign posters, and most are studying the election process in their curriculum. Some classes even watched the presidential debates, she said.

They also registered at school to vote in the mock election about two weeks ago.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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