A day before voters across America took to the polls to have their final say on the presidential election and state-wide races, one class of Haines fourth-graders cast their votes on another down-ballot question.
As Tracy Wirak’s fourth grade class learned about the presidential race, they wondered why they don’t have the right to vote.
After learning about women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement and African Americans gaining the right to vote, they wrote persuasive essays about why children should have that same right.
They decided to hold a vote on a classroom reward. The students wrote more persuasive essays about their desired choice and presented them to the class.
Students cast their votes at the Chilkat Center, the same place general election polling was held the next day.
The instructions on their ballots read: “To vote for a classroom reward you must completely fill in the oval next to the reward you prefer.”
They were instructed to vote for just one reward. As Alaskans did on their presidential ballot, they had six choices. They could vote for a movie, tea, pajama and popcorn party, a cross-country ski field trip, baking treats, a sledding party, no homework day, or a trip to the pool.
Selby Long says they learned what it is like to vote for the President.
“But we’re just voting for our reward. So in eight or nine years for us we will be voting for the president and the senator and all that kind of stuff,” says Long.
At the polls, they showed voter ID cards, signed in and cast their ballots. Marina Loewen says she learned a lot about the process of voting.
“I learned the total process of how the grown-ups do it,” says Loewen. “In those little voting booths, I’ve always wondered how they do it. And I learned how you put them in the box. And I learned what the things you vote on look like.”
Emma Dorn says voting was actually fun.
“Because we got to see what the real ballots look like and get the experience of being in a booth,” says Dorn.
They got down into the technicalities of how to properly fill out a ballot. Camillia Bell says they got a feel for the real deal.
“I learned how you experience how you would feel like when you’re 18 or older to vote,” says Bell. “How you would have to fill them in and how much you have to fill in.”
In casting their ballots, all of the students got to take a peek behind the red, white and blue curtains of the polling booths. Here’s Hayden Jimenez.
“I got to see inside the booth and what it looked like inside,” says Jimenez. “What you did with the ballot and what they looked like and that it’s fun to vote.”
In the end, after all of the students had their say in the fourth grade democracy, the movie and pajama party prevailed.