Students learn which vote really counts

The youth vote

Posted: Tuesday, November 07, 2000

Bush wins easily in mock election focusing on Electoral College

If Juneau-Douglas High School were America, George W. Bush would be president already.

Students in Gary Lehnhart's government classes asked their fellow students Monday to vote for president as part of a project on the Electoral College. It's a surprise to some Americans that only 538 people actually vote for president of the United States, and Lehnhart wants his students to remember that.

"I found the best way for them to learn it is to be right involved in it," Lehnhart said.

After Lehnhart did the same project four years ago, Alaska's actual electors met in his classroom to cast their votes for Republican candidate Bob Dole.

In Monday's school election, 516 students voted for Republican Bush, 406 for Democrat Al Gore, 210 for Ralph Nader of the Green Party, 29 for Harry Browne of the Libertarian Party, 27 for Howard Phillips of the Constitution Party, 24 for Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party, and 16 for John Hagelin of the Natural Law Party.

Jake Jacoby said he would have voted for Gore in the real election because he's concerned about Bush's proposal to let people invest part of their Social Security tax payments on their own.

"I just think that's kind of ridiculous because the majority of people, if asked to invest it, might not invest it or might invest it foolishly" and end up a burden to society when they retire, Jacoby said in today's class.

Erin Hanson said Gore was the best candidate, but she would vote for Nader because Alaska will go Republican anyway and she'd want her vote to count for something. If Nader gets 5 percent of the popular vote, he will win future federal campaign funds for the Green Party.

If Nader's votes had gone to Gore in the JDHS vote, the Democrat would have defeated Bush by a large margin. "If that plays out across the United States, I don't think there's any way Gore would win," Lehnhart told his students.

Jeff Fanning favored Bush because he "seems to have a lot stronger characteristics of leadership." Fanning thought Bush was more aggressive in the debate he saw.

Jon Chapman supported Bush because he believes Republicans favor small government, "and I'm more for the smaller government. Chapman also was concerned about Gore's misstatements, such as that he invented the Internet.

The students who spoke up in class were willing to forgive Bush his drunken-driving conviction of 24 years ago. Everyone makes mistakes, they said, and Gore has admitted to smoking marijuana.

Bush won 42 percent of the school's popular vote but 64 percent of the mock Electoral College votes. To illustrate the Electoral College, Lehnhart recorded student votes by classroom and assigned each classroom to a state. In all but Nebraska and Maine, the popular vote winner gets all of the state's electoral votes.

Today Lehnhart asked his students to see how they could give Gore a majority in the Electoral College by moving the least number of popular votes from Bush to Gore. Three presidents who didn't win the popular vote have been elected John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

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