No ballot confusion for Kenai Middle School students

Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2000

Bob Summer's eighth-grade history classes at Kenai Middle School had no problems with a version of the Florida presidential ballot Friday.

"Everyone nailed it," Summer said.

Summer took a copy of the Florida ballot and placed names of colors where presidential candidates were. Vice President Al Gore was replaced by the "dark purple" while Reform candidate Pat Buchanan was replaced by "red."

Summer said many of the students said that the test wasn't hard and added comments at the bottom of the ballot, including "very easy," "It must be those Florida grapefruits and oranges," "Did they even look at the ballot," "it was very easy if I got it right," "This was so easy, ... they need to go back to school," and "If I couldn't figure out how to answer a test question, my mom would say 'Ask the teacher how to do it.' Need I say more?"

The mock balloting took place in the wake of Tuesday's presidential election when thousands voters in Florida's Palm Beach County complained about the way ballots were arranged. Voters chose candidates by punching holes in the middle of the ballot, while candidates names were alternately listed to the left and then to the right.

While many of the middle schoolers thought it was easy, some students did take into consideration other factors, including the age of the Florida voters.

"We are young smart people, and it was pretty easy, but it could be confusing. What about the old people? It might be hard for them."

Summer said the general consensus of the class was that voters should have asked if they had questions.

The idea of a recount of the votes also frustrated the students.

"They don't buy it," he said. "They get a little disillusioned when adults act worse than they do, when they (adults) complain things are unfair afterward."

Summer also disagrees with the Sunshine State's recount.

"It is very much like giving a student a test," said Summer, who explained that students in his class have one chance to take the test and cannot re-take it if they think they did not do well.

The week's lesson was not only about the Florida ballot.

The class spent much of the week discussing the relevance of the election and even held an election of their own.

Monday, Summer's classroom resembled a polling place with voting booths.

The discussion involved informing approximately 80 students about the Electoral College, the importance of voting and more. Students received an information packet on all the candidates and a copy of the local ballot that included presidential candidates as well as candidates for Senate District E and House District 9. After signing in, students voted in one of two voting booths.

Similar to real life, students also had the options of not voting at all or casting absentee ballots. Summer said only two students chose not to participate, and he received one absentee vote.

He said many students returned to class Wednesday who had stayed up waiting for Tuesday's election result.

Summer guessed 90 percent watched Tuesday's television coverage.

He said there have been many fun lessons in his nine years of teaching history, but Election 2000 takes the cake.

"This one was a kick," Summer said.

Summer made sure the students received impartial information, did not share with the class whom he voted for and said the election was a classic teaching lesson.

"It has just been fun all week."

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