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Electoral ABC's: Center Grove Elementary School has mock election

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Carter Zuch knows whom he wants to vote for as president in the general election.

The 10-year-old thinks Mitt Romney would lower taxes and overall thinks he would be a better president than President Barack Obama.

Zuch, a fifth-grader at Center Grove Elementary School, will get the chance to vote in a statewide mock election at his school.

Students in at least seven elementary or intermediate schools across the county will make a pick for president and Indiana governor in statewide school mock elections conducted by Indiana Kids Vote and the Indiana Bar Association.

Each of the estimated nearly 26,000 students statewide who will cast a ballot in the mock election program would have registered before they were allowed to vote.

The decades-old program is used to teach kids basic civic duties and to make voting a habit, Indiana Bar Association spokeswoman Carissa Long said.

“It helps to spark conversations,” she said. “The whole program is based on the premise that voting is done by habit.”

Teachers are trying to help their students realize that voting is every citizen’s duty. They are allowing students to talk about their views on the candidates for a few minutes if the subject comes up.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson spoke at two Center Grove elementary schools this past week about the voting process.

Teachers have taught students the basics of voting and the electoral college before they make their pick.

Kids need to see that voting isn’t a huge, scary ordeal, said Melissa Maxwell, a fifth-grade teacher at Center Grove Elementary School.

“I want the process of voting to not be intimidating for kids,” she said. “If it becomes a habit then, it will be automatic for them.”

Indiana Kids Vote has encouraged educators to host mock elections in their schools and classrooms in every one of the state’s 92 counties.

And students have paid more attention to the electoral process before they cast their vote.

Zuch watched the vice presidential debate and half of a presidential debate to confirm he wanted his vote to go for Romney.

He can cite how the electoral college works.

Teaching students the basics of civics and citizenship for at least five days is a basic Indiana education standard for fifth grade.

Maxwell registered for the program and organized an election for the entire school so that all students can take part in the electoral process.

“It was an easy thing to do, to incorporate our whole school,” she said. “It is important for all kids to learn.”

Kids as young as kindergarten can take part in the process, Long said.

“We say that we lower the voting age to 5,” she said.

Maxwell’s students started learning about the electoral process before the May primary.

With just days to go until the election, her class was almost evenly split between Romney and Obama.

She doesn’t stage debates about the merits of each candidate but will allow healthy discussion if it naturally arises in class, she said. Her students know the basics of the issues, she said.

“I do allow them to share their opinion,” Maxwell said. “They are very opinionated.”

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