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Cyber poll

Pine View Middle School students join more than a million others in a mock election held on the Web.

By MICHELE MILLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


It might have been a presidential race that was too close to call; but last week, some six days before the real election, students at Pine View Middle School along with those across the country were giving the nod to George W.

Through Youth-e-Vote.net, 1,330,913 students from more than 8,000 schools were able to log on using their own identification number and cast their vote not only for president but for local senate and governor elections, as well as issues concerning such things as crime and education.

According to the Youth-e-Vote Web site, information garnered will help answer some important questions: "Can we turn today's student's into tomorrow's voters?" "Can the online medium stimulate more civics learning in our schools?" "Will online voting encourage greater participation?" "Will youth voting mean more parent voting?"

Nationwide, 56 percent of the youth vote went to Bush, 38 percent to Gore, 4 percent to Nader and 2 percent to Buchanan. At Pine View, 581 students cast their vote for Bush, 390 for Gore, 43 for Nader and 14 for Buchanan.

This isn't the first time Pine View Middle students have participated in a mock election, but it was a first for online voting, said history teacher Jim Sawl, who coordinated the event at his school.

"This is the wave of the future," said Sawl who read about the online voting opportunity in Parade magazine. "We always do some kind of mock elections. We've done paper ballots and had the county people come out with the machines and booths. This was something unique and different, and we get to see nationwide results."

It appeared that many students lining up at one of the 33 iMacs in the computer lab voted along parental lines, said Sawl, who took a two-week break from teaching about the American Revolution to concentrate on the election. "Most of the conversations are, "My mom said this' or "My dad said this,"' he said. "They're watching the news, but they're watching with their parents."

Still, many students expressed some real passion about their views. Abortion and school vouchers were big topics among many, Sawl said. And there were more than a few avid environmentalists supporting Nader and the Green Party in Sawl's third-period class.

Eighth-grader Richie Martinez said he was more than willing to cast his vote for Bush because "he thinks abortions are bad."

"I just hate Al Gore because he's just another Bill Clinton," said eighth-grader Chrissy Thrasher, "And he's for killing babies."

Candice Henn, who thought it was too close a race to predict a winner, said she was voting for Gore. "He has more experience because he was vice president," she said.

"I'm voting for Gore because I don't like what Bush is saying about teachers and how he's just doing things for the rich," said Nishell Mirabal, a seventh-grader who said she gathered a lot of information from her grandmother and political television ads.

So does she think everything she hears?

"Not necessarily. A lot of times they're just saying things so you'll vote for them," Nishell said.

Georgia Burnan also gave her vote to Al Gore but bristled at the notion that she was under any undue influence from parents or political advertisements.

"I'm picking a president that I think could do a good job if he tried," she said. "I'm voting on my own scale and principles."

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For information on Youth-e-Vote, an educational project of the Freedom Channel, log on to info@youthevote.net.

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