While adults were voting at the polls, elementary students around Lake and Porter counties took place in a state-wide program to educate about the election process.
The program, Indiana Kids’ Election, is a mock election that asks students across Indiana to elect their own governor and president in a show of active citizenship. IKE is sponsored by the Indiana State Bar Association, the Indiana Secretary of State, and the Indiana Department of Education.
Through the hands-on experience of voting in a class or school-wide mock election, students learned to develop good voting habits, and Marilyn Tomko, principal at St. John the Baptist School in Whiting said that her 360 students in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in IKE for just that purpose.
“The voting lines are long and the students are casting their votes. The fifth and sixth graders helped organize the election process by setting up voting booths, overseeing identification, establishing precincts, and distributing ballots and the teachers worked with the students to get it set up," Tomko said. "We’re hoping the students get a sense of the voting process as well as how important it is that they are involved, that they learn about the issues.”
At Jackson Elementary School in Valparaiso, the fourth-grade students who had logged the most reading time over the past month were selected as poll workers, and Hattie Hohan, one of those chosen, said the program was running well.
“I answered questions like what to do on the ballot and I told them to vote for president and governor. I helped everyone go to the right voting booth and some people were walking behind the other booths were people were voting, so I had to tell them not to go that way,” said Hohan, who learned about voter privacy.
Another poll worker, Anthony Balon, said, “I checked voters in and I told them to go to one of the booths to vote.”
Jackson’s event was organized by the fourth-grade teacher team of Bobbi Hall, Debbie Pope, and Sue Gore so precincts bore their last names.
“We hope they’re learning about the voting process and how to be conscientious voters,” Hall said.
Carrie Brown, teacher and student council representative at Jonas E. Salk Elementary School in Merrillville, said the 656 students who took part in the event from kindergarten through fourth grade were organized by the student council.
“Kids had to show their registration card and student council members checked their names off," Brown said. "They got a ballot and went to one of six different booths to vote. Each grade level had their own ballot boxes and we report it to the state of Indiana for the kids’ election. I think they will have a much clearer picture of what to expect as a grown up. I feel like they really learned the process.”
She said students also learned about the election process through curriculum earlier in the week introduced by both teachers and two attorneys who came in to present, and each student wore red, white, and blue to school to demonstrate their patriotism.
“We told them we hope you vote when you’re a grown up,” Brown said.