Howard fourth graders hear candidates, cast ballots of their own

Published 5:02 am Saturday, October 16, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Although none of them will be eligible to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential election, fourth graders at Howard Elementary School cast their vote for the next President of the United States on Friday.
Two and a half weeks of work by Mike Frost's fourth-grade class came to an end today with a mock-presidential election.
The mock election came about as a result of the class studying articles in the Niles Daily Star. Frost said the students' interest in politics gave rise to the idea.
Each candidate was played by a student in the class who was required to do research on the individual they were representing and prepare a speech detailing their plans for the country, if elected.
Stuart Coulston, 10, played the role of President George W. Bush, while Josh Youngman, 10, played Senator John Kerry. The roles of Dick Cheney and John Edwards were played by Nicholas Zimmerman, 9, and Jerrid Burdue, 10, respectively.
The students were chosen by their classmates after Frost asked the class to separate into those who favored Bush and those who favored Kerry. The undecided students became the debate committee.
In the week and a half leading up to the election, the candidates campaigned on the school playground, giving speeches and meeting with the voting public.
Frost said Coulston even asked him for a trash bag to pick up litter on the school playground.
Part of the students' research was learning how to act like a candidate and how to campaign to raise awareness for their cause.
But the election almost didn't happen. Earlier this week, signs from both parties were being torn down and vandalized by students and Principal Barb Garrard warned the class that the election would be canceled if the behavior continued.
Before the ballots were cast, each presidential and vice-presidential candidate was asked two questions by a debate committee made of independent students. After each candidate was asked two questions, they presented their final speeches before the voting took place.
The questions were submitted by students in Frost's class and presented to the candidates without any prior knowledge of the questions they would be asked.
Questions ranged from the candidates' plans for the economy and their qualifications, to concerns about township police and job outsourcing in America.
When asked how he would address one student's concern about police coverage in the township where she lives, Youngman, as Kerry, said he would hire more officers so at least one officer was working at anytime during a 24-hour shift.
In response to Youngman's plan, Coulston, as Bush, said that one police officer on shift is not enough.
During their final speech, each candidate presented their plans for the United States and restated why they should be elected.
Burdue, as John Edwards, said, as he pulled out a pair of sunglasses and put them on, the Kerry-Edwards plan provides for "a future so bright, I have to wear shades."
In his final speech, Youngman unveiled his plan to raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour and that he believed the war in Iraq was a mistake.
Coulston proclaimed, "Our plan is working, but in order for me to continue my work and the work in Iraq, I need four more years in office."
After the speeches were given, the three fourth-grade classes returned to their classrooms where they were given ballots and cast their votes.
After the votes were counted, President Bush and Vice President Cheney won the election receiving 59 votes, while Kerry and Edwards earned a respectable 34.
Like real life elections, some ballots had to be thrown out because of multiple votes.
So does this mock election offer a preview of things to come in the real presidential election?
That remains to be seen come Nov. 2.