Education

North Salem Students Hold Election

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Students at the North Salem Middle/High School line up to vote. Credits: Sue Guzman
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Students and North Salem Middle/High School register to vote. Credits: Sue Guzman
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Teacher Karen Koestner mentored the kids as they cast their ballots this year. Credits: Sue Guzman
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(NORTH SALEM, N.Y.)  -- Students from the North Salem Middle/High School held an election on Nov. 8, complete with voting booths,and elected Hillary Clinton as president of the United States. 

A total of 510 students took part in the balloting. Ninety-seven percent of the middle school voted, while 72 percent of high school students participated.

Of the ballots cast, 43 percent of students elected Democrat Hillary Clinton, with 242 votes, 229 voted for Republican Donald Trump for a total of 40 percent of the vote.  Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson garnered 29 votes, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein had 10.
The event was run by the high school’s student council. Student council member Kelly McCarthy, who manned the sign-up desk, said it was a fun civic exercise for students.

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“Many of the kids have never experienced a voting booth before, but they actually find it kind of exciting when they feel like they are going to make a difference with their vote,” said McCarthy. 

Karen Koestner, chairperson of the North Salem Middle/High School Social Studies Department, says they have had mock elections for at least 20 years at the school. They’ve been using voting machines for the past two years, and in the past has used paper ballots. 
“Many school districts use election day as a staff development day. Here at North Salem, we have classes. We think it’s important for the students to have their voices heard and to be active participants. They are a microcosm of the community at large and it’s nice to see if their ideas jibe with the rest of the population at large,” Koestner said. 

In addition to giving students hands-on experience with the voting process, it’s also a teachable moment about the entire Democratic voting process.

“We’ve spent a lot of time most recently on the electoral college. Many of the middle school students don’t understand that it’s an indirect Democracy,” explained Koestner, “That process was eye-opening for them.”

Koestner said high school students already understand the Electoral College. “For them, the discussion was all about the issues and what the candidates stand for.”

When asked what issues are of greatest interest to high school students, Koesnter responded, “Many of the students are concerned about terrorism. And they hear a lot about a wall being built. So they’re focusing on immigration and they are concerned about their safety so they talk a lot about terrorism. “ 

The results of the voting were made available one day after the polling was done. Koestner says each year, the project takes on an even greater significance. 

“It’s my hope that the students will remember this important exercise moving forward and get out and vote when they’re 18—that their voices need to be heard—and that one vote can make a difference.”

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