Riverside fourth-graders make voices heard in mock election

Photo by hgf

Photo by hgf

SUWANEE -- Petros Yemane stood in line at his voting precinct, craning his neck to look at the machines where he would cast his ballot.

When he reached the electronic voting machine, he pulled a small piece of paper out of his pocket and referred to the note as he chose his favorite candidates for governor, U.S. senator, state school superintendent and Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.

But when he got to the final question on the ballot, Petros paused. His finger hovered over the machine's screen, wavering slightly before he picked an answer to the question, "What is your favorite subject?"

"I like all of the subjects, except social studies," the 9-year-old said.

Nearly 380 fourth- and fifth-graders at Riverside Elementary School voted Tuesday in a mock election. The activity was designed to help students learn about the government process and raise voter awareness, said Tonya Bothe, Riverside PTA's vice president and legislative committee chair.

"I think it's cool that we finally get a chance to vote, instead of adults doing it all the time," said Morgan Latham, 10.

Morgan said she prepared for the election by listening to what her teacher told her about the candidates.

"It's a big decision, and you've got to make the right choice," she said.

To remind herself which candidates she felt were best, she wrote their last names on her left hand with a red marker.

The results showed the Riverside students chose Nathan Deal for governor, Johnny Isakson for U.S. senator, John Barge for state schools superintendent and John Heard for the Gwinnett County Commission. Math was their favorite subject.

Keegan Sullivan, 9, said he voted along party lines.

"Really, I'm just a Republican," he said. "And my parents are, too."

The fourth-grader said he thought voting was fun.

"I know it didn't count, but it was still pretty cool to vote on the touch screen," he said.

Other students agreed the mock election was enjoyable.

"It felt like I'm a big person," Petros said.