Ross Beatty vote in student election with real ballots, regulations

Published 8:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2014

Junior Emily Cutting fills out her ballot. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Junior Emily Cutting fills out her ballot. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

With real ballots, an optical scan voting machine and even a table full of “I Voted” stickers, the library of Ross Beatty High School bared more than a passing resemblance to the average local voting precinct Wednesday morning.

For this year’s student council elections, the high school teamed up with officials with Cass County to bring the voting experience seen in state and national elections to the future Cassopolis electorate. Student and county volunteers manned tables to coordinate the voting process, handing out ballots and checking voter registration.

“I think this is a good experience,” said Nakiela Sinclair, a junior at the high school who voted and volunteered in the election. “I plan on voting in other elections after I graduate, so I’ll know how to do it the next time I vote.”

Cass County Clerk/Register Monica Kennedy devised the idea of introducing students to the actual election system two months ago, presenting the plan to her friend Erin Westrate, who teaches social studies at the high school. Both Kennedy and Westrate saw the exercise as a great opportunity to familiarize the teenagers with the voting process.

“Even though we’re not the largest high school around, we have a lot of politically minded students,” Westrate said. “They have opinions, and this teaches them, on a basic level, one way to express them.”

Kennedy, a graduate of Ross Beatty, saw her alma mater as the perfect place to introduce the concept to county students, she said.

“I thought this would be a great place for a trial run,” she said. “I hope we can expand this to the rest of the schools in the county.”

In order to vote, students had to register prior to the election, just like in elections at the state level. 143 students registered for Wednesday’s election, around half of the high school student body, Kennedy said.

The candidates running for a position on the council had to undergo a similar registration process, completing affidavits of identity in order to have their names placed on the ballot.

On Wednesday morning, the student voters had to present their voter ID cards to volunteers before receiving their ballots. The ballots were printed by Michigan Election Resources in Kalamazoo, who donated them to high school, Kennedy said.

Despite the lower stakes in comparison to state elections, Westrate said she and her volunteers would maintain the voting regulations they laid out, turning away unregistered voters or students who fail to present a voter ID card.

“Hopefully, this will set them up for success when they participate in elections at the state or national level,” Westrate said.

Westrate was impressed at the level of interest students showed in this year’s election, and is interested in maintaining voter registration for the homecoming elections in the fall, she said.

Junior Emily Cutting, the chair of this year’s election committee, also had positive things to say about the experience.

“It’s cool that we’re the first school around here to do this,” Cutting said.