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KSS students use mock election to gain insight

Klahowya ninth-grader Catherine Staub participated in the school’s mock election Thursday which resulted in the most votes going to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over Republican candidate John McCain, 53 percent to 43 percent. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Klahowya ninth-grader Catherine Staub participated in the school’s mock election Thursday which resulted in the most votes going to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over Republican candidate John McCain, 53 percent to 43 percent.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

There’s just days to go before Americans decide the future of the country for the next four years.

On Thursday, the future trailblazers of the country who attend Klahowya Secondary School made a simulated decision on who they want to lead them.

And just like the school’s mock primary in February, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama won comfortably over Republican candidate John McCain, gaining 53 percent of the vote to McCain’s 43 percent.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi also defeated incumbent Chris Gregoire with 61 percent.

First District representative Jay Inslee easily won over Larry Ishmael, while sixth District representative Norm Dicks scored an easy win of his own over Doug Cloud.

The mock election, spearheaded by history teacher Jeff Kriefels, is part of the National Student/Parent Mock Election, a nonprofit organization that runs mock elections in schools to make kids aware of the process.

Kriefels, who also ran mock elections back in 2000 and 2004 at Klahowya, has been doing the elections since he was a teacher at Fairview Junior High School.

“My whole idea behind it was to get students interested in government and politics,” he said. “I keep hearing that 18- to 24-year-olds don’t vote as much, so if we get them involved a bit earlier, they’ll be ready to vote four years from now.

“They’ll be old enough to vote (then) so I’m thinking if they get a little bit of interest now, they’ll be more involved instead of having an ‘I don’t care’ attitude.”

Students could “register” to vote last week by signing up during lunch, then make their choice on Thursday by voting via computer.

“We’re trying to mirror the outside world with the process,” Kriefels said.

To help with the decision, four students were chosen to make speeches on behalf of a candidate at a recent mock debate.

Freshman Mary Zimny spoke on behalf of Rossi, while Joey Chapman and Boyd Wolking, both sophomores, spoke on behalf of Gregoire and Obama, respectively.

Alex Bolinger spoke on behalf of McCain.

Zimny supports Rossi because she said she feels he will work for cheaper health care for everyone, a balanced budget, the environment and higher wages for workers.

“I wanted to clear up some of the lies that were told in the (political) advertising,” she said.

Chapman said he wanted to stump for Gregoire because he thinks she’s done a good job in her time as governor.

“She has built more prisons and more prison space and put funding in to make sure that whoever is a sex offender, we know where they live and where we can keep track of them,” he said.

Wolking supports Obama because of the senator’s views on issues such as tax cuts for the middle class, alternative energy and universal health care.

“I think Senator Obama is going to help us re-embrace the American Dream,” he said.

All three became interested in politics through different ways — Wolking is interning with the Obama campaign while Chapman volunteered for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 as a seventh-grader.

Zimny got involved through osmosis — her dad is a “die-hard” Republican and watched the debates with great interest.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, my dad’s a Republican, so I must be a Republican too,’” she said. “It was more I agreed with him, because me and my dad are a lot alike.

“I did my research and watched with my dad so I became involved,” Zimny continued.

All three have seen more talk from kids around school about the election, but they’ve also done what they can to separate fact from fiction.

“I hear a lot of girls go, ‘Oh, McCain is so old and ugly,’” Zimny said. “I don’t see how age or looks matter” in running for office.

And the speakers understand how important this election is and the current situation in the U.S. — even more so for they and their friends.

“It’s going to have a huge effect on our generation with whoever gets elected,” Wolking said.

“I think this election (will determine if) the United States is going to make it or not,” Chapman said. “I don’t want to point fingers or anything, but George Bush has put us in a deficit and we need someone to fix that problem. We can’t afford another George Bush Republican in the White House, or the governor’s mansion.”

Kriefels has seen the increased awareness by kids to get involved and he also said he feels they know this election is important.

“I think the kids aren’t voting just to pick whoever,” he said. “I think they’re finally realizing the choices we make are meaningful and that has to do with the candidates at both levels.

“They seem to be fairly set on who they want to support.”

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