K-12 Students Cast Presidential Votes


Students at Lockhart Middle School in Orange County campaign for their candidates of choice. Credit: Shari Bobinski and Orange County Public Schools

In the midst of the 2016 presidential election, voter participation has been encouraged by the candidates, the parties and the media.

The Lou Frey Institute, and its Florida Joint Center for Citizenship have joined together with Kids Voting USA, Double Click Democracy, the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, and the Florida Association of Social Studies Supervisors to provide an opportunity for a new group of voters to make presidential choices for the first time ever — and most of them are under 18 years old.

The Florida Student Mock Election is immersing elementary, middle, and high school students from all over the state in the electoral process. The mock election is run just like real elections — students vote on real races and issues on standard ballots or computers.

Throughout Central Florida, students are learning about the election process in large numbers. In Orange County, over 10,000 sixth through 12th graders have voted. In neighboring Hillsborough, one of the largest school districts in the nation, over 30,000 students in kindergarten through high school have already participated in the mock election. Across the state, students will be able to vote until the end of the school day on November 8.


Students at Lockhart Middle School in Orange County cast their votes. Credit: Shari Bobinski and Orange County Public Schools

“Research shows when students are civically engaged at a young age, their level of political efficacy is likely to increase as they mature, and lead to active citizenship in adulthood,” said the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship’s Action Civics Coordinator, Christopher Spinale.

Simulating an election is one way in which students can learn to be active participants in the democratic process.

“By engaging in this type of learning opportunity, students are able to express their electoral preferences, participate in civil discourse, and debate issues, all of which contribute to helping them understand the role they will play in our civil society and the importance of that role,” Spinale explained.

The Lou Frey Institute and its Florida Joint Center for Citizenship — a partnership between the Institute and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida — provides educational opportunities and civic learning experiences for students, at all grade levels, in the state and across the nation.  These include quality instructional materials designed to engage students in civic learning and to enhance their understanding of the United States’ founding principles.

“Whether it be a mock election, a congressional simulation, symposium, or Socratic seminar investigating the United States Constitution, the work of UCF’s Lou Frey Institute  has strengthened civics education in a way that enables students to think critically to make meaningful choices that go beyond the single source viewpoint of a political campaign commercial,” Spinale said.

The Lou Frey Institute’s mission is “to promote development of informed, responsible and engaged citizens,” said Doug Dobson, Ph.D, the  executive director of the Institute. “The Florida Student Mock Election is one important way that we aim to fulfill that mission. Our partners make it possible for us to reach thousands of students from Key West to Pensacola. Our hope is that students take away a better understanding of the importance of elections in the democratic process as well as the importance of responsible and civil citizen participation.”

So far, over 170,000 students from across the state have participated in the Florida Student Mock Election.


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