President George W. Bush (R) won by a landslide. At least he did at Paul VI High School in Fairfax.
The school conducted its fourth mock election on Oct. 26, giving students and faculty a chance to see how the electoral process operates. "Everybody in this school is participating," said Julie Becker, a government teacher who runs the program.
Each of the various homerooms and offices in the school was assigned a state that they were supposed to represent. Higher population states were represented by more rooms; for example, four homerooms were combined to represent California.
This forced students to understand the working of the electoral college. "The whole thing is a learning activity," Becker said.
Students and faculty had to register if they wanted to vote. "We intentionally made it voluntary," said Becker. About 90 percent of eligible members of the school community registered to vote, she said.
ON ELECTION DAY, the polls opened at 8 a.m. Students could vote during their study hall or cafeteria time, but not during class time. "They had to do it on their time," Becker said.
Students filed in and cast their ballots according to the state to which they were assigned. Once 80 percent of those registered in a “state” had voted, the results would be tallied and sent to Becker's class, where a group of seniors was waiting to film newscasts projecting the winner for the state.
The atmosphere was hectic with runners bringing a steady stream of projected results and the anchors trying to work out news copy minutes before the taping.
At the same time, others were working as roving reporters in the hallways, interviewing students about their choice. Many of those that the students were able to interview explained their vote for Bush hinged on the issues of abortion and terrorism, said Mike Armellino, one of the roving reporters. "Most kids talk about the war on terror," he said.
"I'm pro-life, and a lot of the stuff [Bush] stands for, I stand for," said senior Will Palaszczuk, whose school uniform was accented with Bush-Cheney 2004 stickers.
In the control room, the anchors and directors had colored (red and blue) transparencies of each state, which they would lay on top of the master once a winner was projected.
Bush (R) came out well ahead in the electoral votes at the school, winning 46 states. Sen. John Kerry (D) won Oregon, Alaska, Connecticut and Georgia.
Bush won the popular vote by a 60-40 margin, according to student Wolfgang Richter. This, he said, marked a dramatic shift for the usually conservative PVI.
Becker was not terribly surprised, noting that the school has chosen the Republican candidate in each of the previous three mock elections it has conducted.
Bush's strong showing, said Becker, is likely informed by the students' backgrounds. "The biggest influence is their family," she said. "They are probably heavily influenced by their religion, which is, of course, their family."