Jefrey Lopez, whose family hails from Mexico, decided he might vote for Donald Trump because it might result in a free trip back home.
Then he thought better of it.
He made the joke, and then the vote, as he and his 27 classmates in Laura Generoso’s eighth grade class participated in East Rock Community Magnet School‘s mock presidential election Tuesday, one week before Connecticut’s adults cast their own ballots in the official main event.
The election, at least at East Rock School, turned out not to be close.
Democratic Hillary Clinton won in a landslide, with 209 votes. Republican Trump won 19 votes, Green Jill Stein 19; and Gary Johnson 16.
Polls opened at precisely 8:52 a.m. and stayed open until 2:10 p.m. The school-wide ballots — third through eighth-graders voted — were counted by veteran journalist and school newspaper adviser Laura Pappano.
The election team crew at the school’s famous newspaper, The East Rock Record, began covering the election back during the primaries.
The newspaper’s election team, including eighth-grader James Maciel-Andrews, distributed candidate fact sheets and bullet points on the four main presidential candidates’ positions and created posters to stimulate interest in the mock election.
Teacher Generoso showed her class clips of the Clinton-Trump debates. The kids discussed debating strategies employed by each candidate.
All the partisan posters turned out to be for Hillary. So James decided — in his capacity as a member of the paper’s election crew — that Donald Trump deserved at least one poster.
Even though Trump’s racist comments made him very much anti-Trump, “I did it out of fairness,” James declared during the early voting at one of the two polling stations at the school.
Voting was brisk among the third and fourth graders, as Joe Lewis, advisor to the student council, made sure the one-kid-one vote standard was maintained.
Then he helped pin an “I voted” sticker on Isabel Faustino and each of the school’s good citizens.
Lewis said that in the run-up to today’s voting he’d noticed that there was much discussion, some of it tinged with anxiety about issues raised by the Republican candidate.
“It’s crazy to vote for Trump,” he paraphrased students saying in the cafeteria. “Kids are asking if Trump is elected, some kids fear their fathers will be deported.:
That was Generoso’s take at the second polling place in the corridor outside her classroom, as she let three kids at a time out of class to cast their ballots for president.
In the Independent‘s brief exit survey of some of these eighth-grade voters, it was pretty clear most were Hillary supporters, but for different reasons and based on different issues.
For example, DaVona Benson said she voted for Hillary because the other candidate was “someone who’s against” people of certain religions.
A “Girl President”
“Hillary and Trump both have problems,” said Riccai Smith, but she said considers Trump’s problems worse. In the end, the biggest factor determining her vote was wanting “a female president.”
Tuphen Outsolo seconded Riccai’s recommendation.
Her teacher, Generoso, mentioned that Tuphen’s from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many immigrant students in her class, during discussions, expressed real fears that their families might be seriously affected by a Trump victory.
Tuphen’s take was more straightforward. She voted for Hillary because, as she put it, girls don’t get paid as much as boys, and we need “a girl president.”
For eighth-graders Aboubakar Kourouma, Shiv Patel, and Abdir Ashid misogyny, name-calling and immigrant-bashing and fairness all mattered.
Abdir said he didn’t like Trump’s “thoughts about our females.”
Aboubakar, who has worked as a reporter on the East Rock Record, cited Trump’s name-calling as particular offensive. Shiv Patel said that he was bothered because Trump said “he’d accept the results only if he won.”
Aboubakar chimed in that this was an example of “bad sportsmanship.”
As he waited his turn to vote, Shiv said that while their kid votes obviously don’t count in the real election, “we kids are affected.”
Let Kids Vote For Real?
Riccai Smith took that idea further. She said she liked the mock election and had learned a lot about the candidates. She argued that perhaps the election should not be so mock in the future.
The kids debated the issue outside of the polling place.
“We have the maturity,” Riccai said.
Bryce appeared to be a tad skeptical. “Some of us do,” he said.
Riccai then modified her position. “The school should give recommendations,” she said: Give out passes or certifications as to which of the kids are mature enough to vote, and then they should be allowed to vote, even as 13-year-olds.
Who decides who is mature and who isn’t? asked a reporter.
They debated those maturity recommendations should come both from teachers and others in the school or from parents as well. They agreed that both sources might contribute.
“That’s an opinion piece,” said Pappano, suggesting the kids consider writing one for the Record in its post-election analysis issue.
Twenty-seven hands went up in Generoso’s classes from students indicating they had voted for Hillary.
Did anyone vote for another candidate? the teacher asked.
One boy raised his hand that he had not voted for Clinton. However, he did not reveal whom he voted for, and the press did not press him.
Generoso praised the exercise: “The seventh graders don’t fully understand the issues, but they’re scared. They have valid concerns. Some are afraid their parents will get deported. It’s important they have an outlet” through the mock election and related classroom discussion.”