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Colorado Springs students get out the vote in mock election

October 25, 2016 Updated: October 25, 2016 at 5:02 pm
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photo - Sophomore Dyvon Kuhfeld and his Doherty High School classmates joined students across the country Tuesday, October 25, 2016, in taking part in the Youth Leadership Initiative Mock General Election. More than 3 million students across the US took part in the 2012 mock election.  Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Sophomore Dyvon Kuhfeld and his Doherty High School classmates joined students across the country Tuesday, October 25, 2016, in taking part in the Youth Leadership Initiative Mock General Election. More than 3 million students across the US took part in the 2012 mock election. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette  

Some are old enough to vote for real. Others are warming up for 2020 and beyond.

"It's nice to see the school take action to find out what kids actually think instead of, 'Oh, you're a child. You don't know what you're talking about,'" said 16-year-old Drake Phillips, a Doherty High School junior.

About 600 students, just over one-quarter of Doherty's enrollment, were expected to voluntarily cast their vote in a mock election held Tuesday and sponsored by the Youth Leadership Initiative. The national civic education program is based at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Students showed their IDs and used a high-tech online voting system set up in the school library's computer lab to not only decide who should be president and fill other offices but also vote on ballot measures.

"We wanted to mimic the election conditions," said Robert Duensing, a U.S. government teacher.

Students studied the candidates and initiatives in-depth in social studies classes.

"This is cool," Duensing said. "The more we practice something the less afraid we become of it, and fear sometimes keeps people from voting."

Doherty junior Taylor Tafoya, among the first to cast his ballot Tuesday, knows "every vote counts."

"I wanted to get my word out there," he said. "My brother just turned 18, and he's already voted."

Doherty junior Shey Hansel, 17, said she appreciated being able to "have a voice" in what she believes "should happen in the world."

"Even if I'm not 18 and can't vote yet, you should be able to have a say in what you think," she said.

The historic nature and contentiousness of the 2016 presidential election have drawn interest among all ages.

"This election is just sad," Phillips said. "It's funny to see the candidates being so childish and talking over each other in the debates."

The election has become a hot topic of debate in many of the students' households. Hansel said she doesn't really like either presidential candidate, but she picked Hillary Clinton for president because that's who her parents are voting for.

"My parents point out the different things of what both candidates are saying," she said. "I don't believe in many of the things (Donald) Trump says and wants to change."

Heston Proctor, 16, said he voted for Trump and wishes he could vote for real.

"I'm a Republican, my whole family is, too, and I agree with his stance on issues," he said. "I think he'd do this country more good than a lot of the other candidates."

The mock elections started at middle and high schools around the nation Oct. 17 and end Thursday.

The goal is to "foster an academic environment promoting learning and growth among the next generation of voters," according to the Youth Leadership Initiative. Results will be available Friday and will be used in a nationwide TV broadcast the week of the election.

Many Doherty students said they can't wait to see who the school thinks should be president.

Doherty has been doing mock elections since 2004, and Duensing said each year students have leaned more toward Democratic candidates and viewpoints.

Although, "It's still a fairly conservative school," he said.

George W. Bush garnered 70 percent of Doherty students' vote in 2004, compared to 51 percent of the voter population nationally. President Barack Obama won 49 percent of students' votes in 2008 and 45 percent in 2012.

Students also have favored Colorado Springs School District 11 school financing measures. The district is seeking both a mill levy override and bond issue on this ballot.

"We need more money," Phillips said. "Our classes are huge."

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