chelsea cookSo we finally got to the end of a marathon election period. Since the world pays very close attention to whatever the USA does, this was a world wide event. Having a few foreign corespondents, I am sure the world is as tired of this as we are. Some countries who not as advanced as we are (cough cough wink wink) and have much different campaigns. The French system explanation from the Library of Congress:”Even if the French have the feeling that they live in an almost quasi-permanent electoral campaign, the length of an official campaign is very brief. As a general rule, it only lasts for the two weeks preceding the first ballot and if necessary the week between the two ballots.” How droll! We don’t even get to kick out anybody in two weeks. They just do not know the fun they are missing. The Brits have a little something that we possibly could have used. If there is a vote of no confidence in the Parliament, the Prime Minister asks the Queen and there is a proclamation to dissolve the whole bloody thing. Then the entire Parliament has to stand for election. All of them. Hmmm, maybe?
Anyway, one year way back when I was a middle school principal we had a presidential campaign going. As my faulty memory remembers, I talked to the student council or some of them talked to me. We decided to have a complete election in the school as there seemed to be a great deal of interest. It was decided that we would not do the electoral college as we were too small in numbers and, at the time, it seemed to be an impediment to our process. There are several thoughts that have stuck with me.
First, the students were 12 - 14 years of age and had never had to make a life changing decision. Ok, yes! I know that a middle school population has -0- effect on a national election but they really got into it. This I don’t remember how but two popular students were chosen as spokespersons for the national candidates. This is not even close to their names but “A;ice” and “Bob”  were the campaign managers for their respective parties. To this day I am still amazed as to how much the whole student body got into this thing. The faculty performed near miracles as there was never a problem of over-zealousness and students getting “out of hand.”  For those of you who have dealt with middle school age kids, you know that when they get excited about something they are like a long stick of dynamite looking for a match. The faculty and more mature students kept that from happening.
They voted by secret ballot as in real life campaigns and it was a very good exercise in national civics. Oh, we even made them register before most of this got started and, of course, a few did not register. Nosir, they didn’t get to vote and it may have caused the great/bad thing that happened later. We had an assembly as the national parties have their conventions. Th spokespeople gave their speeches which were, of course, prepared ahead of time. Let me interject here that my wonderful secretary and i stayed completely out of this on a personal level. As principal I was “in change” of the whole complex operation and the secretary was “mom” to the whole school. We had to firmly not answer questions which may influence the students. Even at that age I believe the students understood.
So we voted. We tried to be very careful and make sure each student got his/her right to a secret ballot. As I said, those who ignored registering for the week we did that were not allowed to vote. I received some really hateful and icy looks. Fortunately none of them were fatal. Those two or three students just thought the rule didn’t pertain to them - but it did and they weren’t happy.
“Voting over, Mr. Cook, what do we do now?” We counted the ballots with witnesses present and a running total and then a grand total at the end. Uh Oh, what’s this? Something is wrong so we had to count them again. Nope, it wasn’t a mistake. The vote came out to a dead even tie. Suddenly I am supposed to be an expert. I did the only thing I could do and, as they say, punted. I brought in the two “speakers” and had them sit in my office and listen as I called the state election board and explained the problem. When I asked for a solution i got, “I don’t know.” They has to research and call us back. IF I remember correctly, we drew a name. All the students were amazed and delighted (I think) that it turned out that way. I was also delighted as there would not be any trash talk winner to loser. The kids really got into this election and I hope, I really hope it has stayed with them all these years. More schools should do this.
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