By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Ethan Bastian and Lily Andrego don’t know how their parents plan to vote on Election Day. And, honestly, they said, that’s neither here nor there.
As seventh-graders, they’re plenty old enough to formulate their own opinions on who should be running the country. And in a mock election at Mankato East Junior High School Friday, both cast their votes for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
“I feel like Obama has had his turn and served his purpose,” Andrego said, a sentiment with which Bastian wholeheartedly agreed.
“With Obama, we’ve kind of gone downhill,” Bastian said. “He said he’d make new jobs and he didn’t.”
Getting students at East Junior and Senior High to really think about the issues is a big part of why the schools have been holding mock elections since 2000. Using an online program by the National Youth Leadership Initiative, about 1,400 students cast ballots Friday (or will on alternative days due to absences), joining the choir of 1 million student voices nationwide who will also participate, said East mock election organizer and teacher Amanda Kozitza.
“The students are really excited about it,” she said.
Seventh- through 12-graders voted on the presidential, Senate and 1st District U.S. House races, as well as both amendment questions.
Both Bastian and Andrego voted yes to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require Minnesotans to show photo ID to vote. Neither have heard stories of people committing voter fraud, but they do think it’s an important issue.
“If it’s something we can help stop, then I think we should,” Bastian said.
But the students’ more conservative leanings on other questions didn’t come into play with the other amendment, which would change the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
“I said no because if you want to get married, you should be able to get married to whoever you want,” Bastian said.
Results of East’s election will be released Nov. 2. And according to past years’ results, they are worth paying attention to, Kozitza said, with regard to accuracy in their predictions. In 2000, 2004 and 2008, East students called the outcome of all three presidential races.
Kozitza said when students are exposed to the experience of voting and feel pride in having their voices heard, then they’re more likely to take part in the election process when they are adults and can make a difference.