Lincoln-Way West students participate in mock elections
Monday, November 7, 2016

Throughout the month of October, juniors and seniors in teacher John Cupp’s AP Government class at Lincoln-Way West have been busy campaigning for their own elections. Over the past five weeks, students worked together in groups to create platforms on which to run, raised “money” to promote their candidate and created a real life simulation of the election process.

At the start of October, Cupp randomly divided students up into three political parties (Democrats, Republicans and Independents). “The first step in the process was to create a platform,” says Cupp. “That’s a fun part of this project. Kids may have to explore and defend policies that they don’t necessarily agree with, which opens up that political discussion in class.”

The platforms that students must create are between 15 and 20 pages long and require extensive research. Students must be able to defend their platform so that they are able to answers questions from teachers who decide whether or not to support them with “money.” Each teacher is given a certain amount of “money” which they distribute to different political parties at their discretion. Knowing this, the students must be prepared to answer each teacher’s questions according to their assigned political party’s beliefs.

“Around the hallway, each teacher has a cause that they support, which is posted on their door,” says Cupp. “Each teacher was allowed to pick issues that were important to them. We have issues like trade, immigration, and public works and infrastructure. We encourage teachers to pick topics that are interesting to them because we want them to be invested when students come in to try and raise money.”

Raising money throughout the day means that the hallways around Cupp’s classroom are constantly filled with campaigning students. Cupp’s AP Government student Bret Jones says, “I assumed we would stay in the classroom during this project so we wouldn’t disturb anyone else, but he’s letting us run free.” Students even spend time between class periods and before school to try and get the attention of teachers who might support their cause. “When we’re available, sometimes teachers are busy teaching, so we need to work our schedules around them.”

“Once the students raise ‘money,’ they can use the funds to buy campaign flyers, posters, commercials, or other items to promote their candidate,” says Cupp. “They’ve also spent the past few weeks getting other kids registered to vote so that they can participate in this mock election.”

Students in Cupp’s class will discover if their hard work paid off on mock Election Day, which falls on the same day as the United States Presidential Election: November 8, 2016. “We’ll have polling booths set up on Tuesday so they can vote, and on Wednesday, the ballots will be counted. Thursday, we’ll run through an overview of what went well, what didn’t go well and what the students learned,” says Cupp.

“I had an idea that it was pretty involved, but I never really knew how involved it was,” says student Bret Jones. “It’s a lot of work to run for president. It’s fun though!”