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Mock Election gives Pitman students civic experience
For the first time ever, all registered voters in Stanislaus County will receive their ballot in the mail for the upcoming election on Nov. 3 (Photo contributed).
Students at Pitman High School received a realistic lesson in civics last week when they participated in the California Student Mock Election for the first time in school history.

Meant to stir student interest in voting and inform them about the process, the Student Mock Election invites junior high school and high school students from throughout the state to cast a ballot in the Presidential Election — just for fun, of course. The results are then tallied and students can see where they stand when it comes to politics as compared to the ideals of their peers.

PHS history teacher Isaac Farhadian, who is also advisor to the school’s Junior State of America club, said he signed the school up for the Mock Election as a way for students to remain civically engaged during the pandemic. He led a department-wide effort to see as many members of the Pride participate in the Mock Election as possible, and in total 831 PHS students voted.

“Collectively, the Pitman High history teachers turned the Mock Election into a resounding success. In a normal year, we would have converted a classroom into a traditional voter booth with curtains, bubble sheets and ‘I Voted’ stickers,” Farhadian said, adding that this year, students completed a virtual ballot. “Many teachers in the department took the time to teach our students about the importance of being civically informed and engaged. This tied perfectly into our school's motto which states, ‘All Pitman students will graduate as responsible citizens who are college and career ready.’"

As part of the process, PHS students conducted research on the propositions and the presidential candidates before making up their minds. In addition, the JSA club hosted an after school ElectionCon on Oct. 1, which saw nearly 90 students log onto Zoom to hear presentations about each proposition from club officers.

JSA co-president Micah Littlepage said he surprised himself when researching different propositions, as a little bit of digging when it came to some topics actually changed his decision.

“It was really exciting and fun to research the candidates and all of the propositions to figure out what you stand for and support,” he said. “There were quite a few propositions I was looking into where it wasn’t what it seemed, like Proposition 22. It taught me you definitely have to be more careful about advertisements, because there are a lot of misleading ads. Just doing some research — even just googling it — you realize how much of the stuff out there is false.”

HIstory teacher Jennifer Andrade said that the Mock Election taught students how to make informed decisions, no matter where they stand on the issues.

“It sees them take both perspectives, both sides and pick it apart — not just simply making a one-sided choice, but looking at all of the evidence and being able to make an informed choice,” she said.

The turnout of more than 800 students was more than she anticipated, Andrade said, since students did not have to vote, but was indicative of the rise in civic engagement seen among high schoolers in recent years.

“The overwhelming response of them wanting to do it and show where they stood with propositions and the presidential candidates was really exciting for both Isaac and I, to just allow them to have that political experience be involved in the process,” Andrade said, specifically praising the work of the JSA during the Mock Election. “The work that comes from these kids is amazing. I truly believe we are seeing our next generation of politicians coming out of Pitman.”

In total, 831 PHS students voted in the California Student Mock Election. Joe Biden won the presidential election with 446 votes, followed by Donald Trump with 255 votes. The ticket featuring Kanye West as the Vice Presidential candidate garnered 44 votes — a tally that surprised JSA co-president Sydney Pike, who expected the rapper’s votes to be higher in count.

“Seeing the results of how many people participated in the voting really meant a lot given how much time and effort we put into researching and putting the slideshow together,” Pike said. “Even though we are about to be 18, sometimes we can be on the immature side so I expected more people to vote for Kanye in the presidential race.”

Propositions that PHS students voted in favor of included Propositions 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24 and 25. The only Proposition that failed to pass was Proposition 22.

Statewide, Donald Trump received far less of the vote than he did at PHS. Biden received 67 percent of the statewide vote, while Trump received just under 18 percent. About 31 percent of PHS students voted for Trump, compared to about 54 percent for Biden.

Statewide, students passed every single Proposition.

No matter what the results were, Pike knows she will look back on her first Mock Election as a valuable experience.

“We are 16, 17 and even going on 18 about to vote, and I think it is really important to understand our system, how it works and how everything runs in order to fully be a part of democracy and change the future.”