Lyons Township High School students re-elect Obama in mock election
Owen Swanson of La Grange marks his ballot for his choice for president. Lyons Township High School South campus hosted a mock presidential election during lunch periods along with help from the League of Women Voters. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2012 6:14AM
LA GRANGE — Lyons Township High School students re-elected President Barack Obama in a mock election Thursday.
Of the 1,690 ballots cast before school and during lunch periods, Obama captured 56.6 percent of the vote and Republican challenger Mitt Romney garnered 35.6 percent.
In addition, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson got 4.3 percent of the votes cast, Jill Stein of the Green Party captured 2.9 percent and independent Ron Paul received 0.3 percent. There were 20 write-in votes for real and fictitious contenders and 30 spoiled ballots.
Paul Houston, chairman of the Global Studies division, said he was pleased with voter turnout, about 42 percent of the student body.
“We had a huge increase over 2008 with 1,185 ballots cast,” Houston said. “There was quite a bit of excitement in 2008 over Obama among young folks, and to increase turnout by close to 50 percent, I’m very grateful.”
Houston said the school sent email reminders to students and separate e-mails to parents urging their children to vote. The election was promoted on morning announcements and on the marquee of the south campus in Western Springs, as well as in all English classes.
“We try to strike a balance, to replicate a real election to a reasonable degree,” he said. “People don’t come to your house to get you to vote.”
To promote civic involvement, social studies teachers focus on making connections with the real world and how government affects students’ lives.
“In some ways it’s gotten easier lately,” Houston said. “In times of fiscal difficulty kids understand how things get cut like Pell grants for college, or perhaps their parent’s pension.”
Houston said the election was staged Thursday, because equipment was borrowed and will be needed Nov. 6 by the Cook County Board of Elections. Students marked photocopied ballots in the county’s election booths and were under scrutiny by election judges, who were teachers and volunteers from the La Grange Area League of Women Voters. Ballots were counted by hand.
“I was busy running the election, but many people told me in the hallways, this was the buzz of the day,” he said. “Kids were arguing about who they voted for.”
LT’s results will be forwarded to a statewide organization, which tabulates mock election results, illinoisstudentvote.org.
Houston declined to predict whether the nation’s voters will follow LT’s lead.
“I stay out of that,” he said. “Our rule in the social studies department is if kids have no idea how you voted or intend to vote, that’s the best. We try to be professional devil’s advocates.”