NISKAYUNA — Although the vast majority of the senior class at Niskayuna High School can’t vote yet, it didn’t stop them from weighing in on the election.
They joined the rest of the United States on Tuesday, November 8, with an election of their own. With help from their social studies teachers, like Robyn Salvin, students in the senior class created a guide to the election with every candidate’s stances and biographies lining the walls of the school library in what they’ve deemed a ‘Gallery Walk’.
On their lunch break or in study halls between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., students stopped by the library media center to cast their ballot.
Some took their time and studied the candidates along the Gallery Walk in the library one last time before voting, while others strode confidently up to the ballot box.
“If they walked through the Gallery before coming to vote, we give them a Hershey Kiss,” said Kierstyn Gurney, a senior who was helping other seniors get their votes in.
The senior class set up social media accounts, made posters and performed political skits on the morning announcements to get the school excited about the mock election.
Throughout the past year, students have said the election was never far from their daily discussions in class, in the cafeteria, and on social media.
“I think everyone is ready for it to be over by now. But I’d like to think that students who vote in our mock election feel like they’ve had their say in some way,” said Gus Jones, one Niskayuna senior who helped to organize the mock election.
Polls were set up in what’s known as the Crossroads, a large atrium that connects most hallways in the school.
Many students stopped by in between their classes and during their lunch breaks to cast their ballots.
“It really helps that we’re in a central position for students,” said Grace Cano, another senior.
Jones and a few other poll volunteers said that they were surprised at how easy it was to get students to stop by and vote.
“There’s a surprising number who just come by without us having to ask,” Jones said.
Students who filled out a ballot also got an “I Voted” sticker, which many sported throughout the day.
“We have some students in the senior class who are old enough to vote and voted this morning,” said Cano. But they came back and did a second round of civic duties and cast their ballots in Niskayuna high school’s election too.
Robyn Salvin, a history and political science teacher at Niskayuna High School, spearheaded the organizing of the mock election because she wanted students to see the value in voting and in feeling invested in the outcome of the election.
“In particular, the senior class was able to learn how complex our electoral process can be by creating the exit polls and taking care of the logistics of the election itself,” Salvin said.
It was clear that the student organizers did their research on how an actual polling place operates.
The biggest difference between the Niskayuna High School mock election and the national election were the hours of operation, with the polls open from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
This gave students and teachers enough time to tally up the ballots by the end of the school day.
With a total of 783 ballots cast, which represents approximately 55% of the student body, 60% voted for Hillary Clinton, 30% voted for Donald Trump, 6% voted for Jill Stein and 4% voted for Gary Johnson.