CEDAR RAPIDS — In the hallway of Roosevelt Middle School on Election Day, a sixth-grader did his best newscaster impression.
“Here today we have an 11-year-old Michael Friedman,” Michael said. “Apparently, he doesn’t know what a Democrat or a Republican is, which is kind of coo-coo crazy, but in other news ….”
He was one of hundreds of Cedar Rapids middle school students who participated in a schoolwide mock election Tuesday — where many of his classmates learned the names and party identification of candidates for the first time.
The mock vote was held while adults across the country headed to the polls. Students in teacher Breanna Oxley’s eighth-grade government class manned the polls while other students formed lines to voting booths.
The voting experience was meant to show students what it’s actually like to cast a ballot — the lines can be long, and you might not know everyone on the ballot, Oxley said, though her students distributed information about the candidates before Tuesday.
“We’re trying to simulate some of the chaoticness and messiness,” the Roosevelt teacher said. “But I figured if they practice here, they’re not going to be nervous to go to the polls someday — to not only vote, but to work them, too.
“What other kind of experience do you get for that?”
The sixth- through eighth-grade students voted in races up and down the ballot, including for governor, 1st District U.S. House representative, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor, secretary of agriculture and their statehouse representatives in Senate District 35 and House District 70.
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Tyler Bartels, a 13-year-old “precinct captain,” said he enjoyed the exercise because he and his classmates were “helping kids do what they’re going to do when they’re older.”
He said he plans to vote once he’s 18.
Other students weren’t so sure, saying they would only vote on certain issues and were growing tired of standing in line and asking to go back to class.
Superintendent Brad Buck — who talked Michael Friedman through gubernatorial candidates Kim Reynolds’ and Fred Hubbell’s platforms — and Cedar Rapids City Council member Ashley Vanorny attended the mock election to help educate the young voters.
“There’s so much beautiful innocence in children, where they don’t have so many people having siloed them one way or another,” Vanorny said.
“I love the fact that they don’t really know what partisan politics is, that they don’t know what it means to be a Democrat or a Republican.”
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