At the invitation of government teacher Laurel Colborn, Ventura County elections officials arrived at the Upper Campus earlier this month to teach students about the 2012 presidential election and the importance of voting, while providing them an opportunity to participate in the upcoming election.
Judith Rodriguez, Ventura County Election Office and polling place supervisor, explained the voting process to sixth period Law and Government students, showed them sample ballots and gave them an opportunity to cast mock votes.
Rodriguez also taught the class how to fill out a ballot and how to use a touch-screen voting computer, and offered them a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what happens on Election Day.
Mrs. Colborn said this was the first time that she has invited elections officials to speak to her students, saying she did so to drive home the idea that democracy is the most important aspect of American government.
“It gives the students a direct connection to how elections are run in our county and in our city,” Mrs. Colborn said. “They actually practiced how to vote, and learned where to vote and where they can register to vote. The fact of the matter is most of the students are 18 or almost 18, and will be voting in the near future and possibly in the next election.”
Government students said the visit was informative and entertaining.
“It was fun,” said senior Jesse Clapoff. “We chose random famous people to vote for.”
The students were given mocks ballots along with a booklet of all the propositions. They then chose from a list of famous people – including Helen Keller, John D. Rockefeller and Booker T. Washington — to fill a variety of elected positions.
Students 18 or older were even allowed to register for the upcoming presidential election, which will pit incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney on November 6.
“It was nerve-wrecking to register,” said senior Stephanie Teazis, who registered to vote on that Thursday. “It was weird, but exciting too. It’s weird to think that I’m voting for the president.”
Stephanie, along with the others who registered, will receive a ballot in the mail in order to practice for the day when they step into the voting booth for the first time. Mrs. Colborn even offered to drive eligible resident students to the polling site on Election Day.
The lesson couldn’t come at a better time.
With the presidential election just three weeks away, Mrs. Colborn wanted to emphasize the importance of the voting process, especially to young people.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2008 younger citizens (aged 18-24) were the only age group to show a statistically significant increase in voter turnout when compared to the 2004 election.
“Since President Obama’s election, I have noticed that young people, at least here, are more into election process and more of them are registering,” Mrs. Colborn said. “What he did four years ago – especially with the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media – has changed elections, I’ve seen it in my classroom.”
Senior Aria Ellett contributed photos for this story.