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The results are in: Obama wins Klahowya

Klahowya Secondary School senior Ashley Harkness (left) and fellow senior Jess Wilson tally votes during Klahowya Secondary School’s mock primary Feb. 13. - Photo by Paul Balcerak
Klahowya Secondary School senior Ashley Harkness (left) and fellow senior Jess Wilson tally votes during Klahowya Secondary School’s mock primary Feb. 13.
— image credit: Photo by Paul Balcerak

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

What better place for a popularity contest than Klahowya Secondary School? That’s exactly what happened Wednesday morning, but not in the way you might think.

Amid an ocean of mostly ineligible real-life voters in Klahowya’s commons area, history teacher Jeff Kreifels and a handful of student volunteers erected an island of democracy that was the school’s first mock primary.

“Most of them are 14 or will be 14 by November, which means they’ll be eligible to vote in the (2012) election,” Kreifels said of his students, while discussing his motivation for putting together the primary. “I want them voting now so in four years they’re not just sitting on the sidelines.”

Kreifels teaches eighth-grade U.S. history and 10th-grade AP European history.

The mock primary gave students the option to vote for any of the candidates featured on Washington state’s primary ballot. Students voted during first and second lunches on Wednesday.

Results of the mock primary mirrored real-life, for the most part; Illinois Sen. Barack Obama took 84 percent of the Democratic vote and 56 percent of the overall vote, while Arizona Sen. John McCain led Republicans with 46 percent and about 16 percent of the overall vote.

Not that anyone should read too much into those numbers.

“Christopher Dodd has two votes — I would bet (students) don’t know who Christopher Dodd is,” Kreifels said at one point of the Connecticut senator.

That may have been true for some, but student interest in this year’s races ran the gamut from the completely uninterested — only 30 percent of Klahowya students participated — to the politically active.

Students like eighth-grader Brynna Mosely knew who they were voting for and why.

“I like what he has to say about the election and his ideas he has for being president,” she said of Obama, noting his plan to redistribute troops from Iraq to other areas in the Middle East and provide universal health care for Americans.

Mosely was so enthusiastic about her choice of candidate that she showed up school Wednesday in a self-made “Obama in ’08” T-shirt.

Tenth-grader James Hall cast his vote for Obama, too, though he wasn’t really sure where the senator stood on most wedge issues.

Hall doesn’t follow election coverage regularly, but said that would change if he were eligible to vote in an actual primary or election.

“I would probably study their history and what they stand for to see if they’d be a good president,” he said.

Still others refrained from voting altogether, though not all their reasons were apathetic.

“I even had one student who said, ‘I don’t want to vote because I don’t know enough about the candidates yet,’” Principal Ryan Stevens said. “That’s pretty good.”

For the truly interested — and of-age — senior Aymeric Prieur was there dishing out voter registration forms.

“I think it’s important because young people, students especially, don’t pay attention to politics,” said the dual U.S. and French citizen and president of Klahowya’s Political Action Club. “We just want students to get interested in politics.”

That was more or less Kreifels’ aim, too. Despite having his conservative heart progressively broken as waves of Obama supporters led the senator to another — albeit fake — win, Kreifels was happy to see some level of interest.

“I think a lot of (students), like a lot of the adults, like Obama because he’s a good speaker, but they don’t know a lot about his issues,” Kreifels said. “But at least that’s a first step. Maybe by the next election they’ll actually do some research and read.”

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