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What Happens in a National Student/Parent Mock Election?

Millions of students (and some of their parents) vote in classrooms, schools, community centers, state capitals, even hospital rooms, all across the nation. Their vote totals are reported to their state or national election headquarters. The press flashes the results across the airwaves and the internet.

Preparation begins months or even years ahead of time. States and other areas have volunteer coordinators distributing voting and curriculum guides, etc; and planning for their election headquarters, vote tabulations, and all the other elements of an actual election.

Five days before America votes on Election Day, many of the media are represented at National Election Headquarters for the National Student/Parent Mock Election, watching as the results come in from all 50 states and American schools around the world. The voices of millions of young Americans are about to be heard.

The students have studied the candidates and their positions, held issues forums and debates, mock press conferences, cable call-in programs, and get-out-the-vote campaigns. Schools have appointed school coordinators while students and parents have decorated their school election headquarters. Some have borrowed voting machines from local election officials, while others are preparing to vote on their school computers and send their votes electronically to their state election headquarters or to National Election Headquarters. Some will be tallying paper ballots and transmitting their results by phone or fax. In many of the classrooms and at many of the state election headquarters, governors, senators, congressmen, and candidates are joining the young voters and often parents, too. Tonight is their night.

At National Election Headquarters on Mock Election Day, there is a flurry of activity. Who will verify that each state’s vote comes in at the appointed time? Who will call urgently if a state is missing? Who will take care of schools that have lost their web-voting ID? Who will enter the thousands of faxes and add the votes to each state’s totals? Who will handle the phoned-in votes? How about the helpline? How about the overseas schools and the American students all around the world? Are there enough blank ballots to record the votes? The students are voting on national issues as well as on candidates. Is each state’s ballot accurate? Can we keep it all straight? Will a state coordinator go to dinner and forget to send in an entire state’s vote? The press has been promised national totals by the end of the evening. Can we make it? Who will be handling the press calls? The TV cameras?

Suddenly the vast room is quiet. It is time for the votes to start pouring in. Each state has a required reporting time, ready or not. Fifty states must report at five-minute intervals. Will all 50 make it? Will all the overseas schools, too?

Who will be elected the next President of the United States? Which party will win control of the Senate? The House? Who will be elected the next governor? What issues matter most to students across the state? Across the nation?

Miraculously, by the end of the evening, all the votes have been counted. They will be recounted the next day for accuracy, but it isn’t the numbers that matter. Mock Election Day is the culmination of months of learning the power of participation in our democracy.

"The research is clear -- getting young people involved in the local and national political process as they come to citizenship age is a vital aspect of engaging them as empowered participants in the political system. The National Student/Parent Mock Election is an organization that is committed to that goal and has a long history of energizing local connections that facilitate participation."

-- Professor Anne Hildreth, Dept. of Political Science, State University at Albany, SUNY

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