Most may be too young to vote in Tuesday's California primary election, but students at Terra Linda High School this week found a way to make their voices heard.
The school was among more than 400 schools with a total 240,000 students in California to participate Tuesday in the MyVote student mock election staged by the California secretary of state's office. San Rafael High School, Kent Middle School, Madrone High School and Marin Oaks High School also participated in the election.
Students voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who received nearly 51 percent of the county's 1,750
tallied votes. Democratic candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., finished second with just more than 15 percent of the vote. At 3.8 percent, Democrat John Edwards the only other candidate to garner more than 2 percent of the vote.
At Terra Linda, three-quarters of the school's 1,200 students participated in the election, which included presidential candidates and three ballot measures aimed at students.
"We're always trying to connect history with the present, with current events," said Randy Baker, chairman of the Terra Linda social studies department, who organized theevent for his school. "This is a no-brainer for us to offer to kids."
The school submitted its results to the secretary of state's office; final statewide election results and school-by-school breakdowns were to be released Wednesday.
The mock election allowed students to vote for any presidential candidate regardless of party affiliation, but was otherwise handled like a real primary.
Among the students excited about the chance to vote was Cesar Castillo, a sophomore who voted for
Senior Genevieve Macmillan joins other Terra Linda HIgh students in voting during Tuesday s statewide mock election. (IJ photo/Alan Dep)
"We can't vote yet, but we have that urge to vote," said Castillo, 15. "People are like, 'I want to turn 18 so I can vote.' Everyone's talking about it, asking, 'Who did you vote for?'"
Baker said he and the rest of the social studies department geared lesson plans to the mock election for weeks in advance, trying to provide the students as much current information as possible. He said the students showed a good deal of interest.
"The students here are very aware of the issues," Baker said. "They've been very responsive."
The secretary of state's office has staged mock elections since 2006, but this was the first for a presidential primary vote.
Kate Folmar, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said Bowen wanted to take advantage of the interest and importance of this presidential election by getting students interested early. Participation was open to all secondary schools, she said.
"(Bowen) believes strongly in nurturing a culture of young voters, and this was a perfect way to reach them at an early stage," Folmar said.
The Marin County Registrar of Voters Office provided the school with official voting booths, which were stationed in the cafeteria throughout the day.
Baker said the battle between Clinton and Obama was a major point of interest for students at Terra Linda. The school has more than 31 percent minority students, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
"The gender-versus-race issue is a very interesting one, and one that the kids have been talking about a lot," Baker said. "The kids seem to be leaning toward Obama, but that's very premature."
Castillo was among a collection of students interested in Tuesday's event, but some students showed considerably less enthusiasm.
"I voted for - I can't remember her name," said Kara Takashige Boehm, a sophomore in Erin Pope-Garcia's world history class with Castillo. "Someone from the Peace and Freedom Party. It was a woman, Gloria something."
Takashige Boehm said she wanted to vote for a woman (Gloria E. La Riva, to be precise) from a party other than the Democratic or Republican factions. She had a different take than Castillo on the students' reaction to the event.
"I feel like kids don't care very much," said Takashige Boehm, 15. "There's a small percentage of kids that really got into it, but not many."
Baker knew the response to Tuesday's event wouldn't be unanimously positive.
"I wish I could say the kids are vibrant and excited, but I can't say that," Baker said. "It's not the most exciting stuff in the world, but it's important for the kids to learn. It's a good approximation of a real election day, and a lot of the kids find that fascinating."
GET THE RESULTS
With 250 of 450 California schools reporting, Barack Obama had 27,845 votes statewide in the open election, nearly seven times that of the leading Republican, John McCain, who had received 3,773 votes.
- Download a PDF of how Marin students voted in Tuesday's mock election: www.sos.ca.gov/elections/student_mock_election/2008/marin.pdf
- Full statewide results: www.sos.ca.gov/elections/studentmockelection.htm