Students get lesson on the voting process

Students vote and learn the process

Campaign season was pretty hectic this year for vice presidential hopeful Tajai Gomillion.

The Meadowbrook Elementary School fifth-grader had to spend some of his lunch hour talking up voters. Last week, he cut letters out of colorful construction paper and glued them onto a poster that hung in the hallway:

“Vote 4 Tajai” it said.

On Election Day, he showed up to the polls in crisp, black slacks, a red button-down shirt and tie, and waved at voters as they filed into the voting booths.

“I would like to help make Meadowbrook a better environment for students,” he said. “I had a lot of people say they’d vote for me.”

Meadowbrook fifth-graders had a lesson in democracy Friday as they conducted student council elections with real ballots and booths from the Richmond County Board of Elections. Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason was there to advise about 90 fifth-graders, including 22 candidates, on voting etiquette and the election process.

“There are no losers here today,” said Mason, who is in his second commission term and is running for mayor in 2014. “Everybody here is a winner just for the fact you put your name in and stood up for your school. Nobody holds their head down after the
election, OK?”

Principal John Felton said student council elections are typically done by students writing their choices on a piece of paper and dropping it into a box. This year he and Meadowbrook’s parent facilitator, Tara Munns, found something more realistic that would also get parents involved.

“We wanted them to get the experience of really voting,” Felton said. “A lot of these kids, they don’t have the experience of voting because their parents don’t vote or don’t talk about it when they do.”

Munns said the election is one way, along with academic advisement nights and parent-teacher meetings, to get parents more aware of their children’s activities in school. Most of the 22 candidates designed campaign posters at home in the presence of their families.

Zakiyah Howard designed a colorful poster that read “Your school, your education, our time. Turn up the vote.” He said he tried to win votes this week by telling classmates how his good grades and desire to do well for others would make him the perfect vice president.

Mason visited the school last week to teach the pupils about the importance of voting and the way leaders are elected. He told them about his failed 2007 run for the commission and his comeback to be elected twice.

He advised the candidates to campaign by telling classmates how they can realistically help the school and not make promises they can’t fulfill, such as vowing to extend lunchtime by one hour.

On Friday, he instructed the pupils on filling out the ballot and voting as a right. He hoped the message would get circled back at home.

“If we can get the kids started early, then they can understand they can get involved in the process and continue that,” Mason said.

The fifth-grade class was voting for nine candidates for president, seven for vice president, two for secretary, one for assistant secretary and three for treasurer.

Felton said that after the vote tally, the results would be announced over the loudspeaker at the end of the day.

As he waved to his constituents, vice presidential candidate Tyler Jones said it would be difficult to wait that long to find out.

“I hope they pick me,” he said.

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