Program teaches kids about election process


NEW PALESTINE — Jayla Rethmeyer raised her right hand high into the air and answered the question with a boisterous “Yes!” — she’d love to be the president of the United States someday because she’s always wanted to see the White House.

“I want to be a singer, but I thought if I can be a singer, I could probably be the president, too,” the second-grader quipped.

Students in Pam Swinford’s class at Brandywine Elementary School are among more than 200,000 Hoosier kids taking part in a statewide mock election through which they get to cast a vote for president, governor and other officials running for office.

It’s part of an interactive lesson in citizenship through Indiana Kids’ Election — IKE program. The award-winning mock election educational tool is sponsored by the Indiana State Bar Association, Indiana Secretary of State and the Indiana Department of Education.

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It is designed with a special emphasis on encouraging students to develop a good understanding of how the election process works at an early age by emulating the process as closely as possible, officials with the program said in a news release.

It includes casting ballots for the real candidates running for office.

Swineford has been helping the students do research and study up on the candidates before the vote and has a booth all set up where the kids will cast ballots. They will then tally, discuss and send the results to the program’s organizers.

“We’re educating the students so they can make their own opinions and not vote based on what their parents do,” Swineford said.

Each lesson plan is grade-appropriate, but all students learn the basics about registering to vote and casting a ballot.

“Voting is one of the most important things a person can do in their lifetime,” said Connie Lawson, Indiana Secretary of State, in a press release.

Getting kids interested in elections at an early age and giving them a way to express their opinions is something that will build a stronger future, program officials said.

Marvin Shepler, a world history teacher at New Palestine High School, took the program even further with his ninth- and 10th-graders. He brought in state candidates to speak to the students about the process.

Each of his five classes represents a precinct with party chair leaders, and they make posters supporting their candidates.

In Amanda Leiber’s fifth-grade class, Greenfield-Central Intermediate School, they learned about the election process through their own social studies curriculum then supplemented that with content from the IKE program.

Leiber was glad to see how serious her students were about taking part.

“What was so funny was when we started all this, one of the kids got really mad because I told them they had to be 18 for their vote to count, and one of the students said, ‘You mean my vote’s not really going to count?'” she said with a laugh.

Under Indiana law, schools are required to give instruction on the election process two weeks preceding a general election for all students in Grades 6 to 12. IKE helps Indiana teachers meet this requirement by providing comprehensive curriculum guides, free of charge, to participating schools, officials said.

The curriculum meets current state academic standards as approved by the Indiana Department of Education.

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Hancock County students from area schools classrooms taking part in the mock elections:

Southern Hancock Schools:

  • Brandywine Elementary School
  • Sugar Creek Elementary School
  • New Palestine High School

Mt. Vernon Community Schools:

  • Fortville Elementary School
  • Mt. Vernon High School

Greenfield-Central Schools:

  • Weston Elementary School
  • Greenfield Intermediate School

St. Michael School