As 7-year-old Devin Holder leaned against the wall outside his mock polling location at Harmony Science Academy, he shrugged his shoulders and said voting in the presidential race was scary. After all, it was his first time.
“I was all tingly inside,” Holder said. “Just like my mom, I’m really for the same person: Hillary Clinton. She just felt like the right one.”
If the school’s result is any indicator, Texas may turn blue for this year’s presidential race.
Holder and 184 other first- through fourth-graders cast digital ballots in Harmony Science Academy’s library Tuesday. Democratic nominee Clinton led in votes with 141, followed by Republican nominee Donald Trump with 22 votes. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson managed to earn 12 votes, and Green party candidate Jill Stein finished last with 10.
This was the first time Waco’s Harmony campus participated in the mock election, which was hosted through everykidlearns.org/vote, said Blanca Centeno, a second-grade teacher and event coordinator. For the past three elections, the results have accurately predicted the outcome of the presidential race, the website states.
“It’s just about giving them that voice and having them understand we are very lucky to live in a democracy,” Centeno said.
Centeno read about the Every Kid Votes program through an email about the school’s social studies curriculum, she said. She and other teachers have spent the last week or so going over government responsibilities, reviewing the major candidates, learning about political party symbols, studying the requirements to become president and more.
Before they voted, Centeno gave her students a small review.
“Class, class, what are the three requirements to become president?” Centeno asked.
“You have to be 80,” one shouted as the others eagerly raised their hands.
“Good try, but you’re still cool,” Centeno said with a laugh and her students following in unison.
The second-graders knew the other two, though. A candidate must be born in the United States and must have lived in the country for at least 14 years, they said. For Centeno, those little moments are a reminder of why teaching elementary students about the election is important, she said.
“More than anything, I want them to know they’re all important, that we all have a voice and how it’s part of their responsibility if they want to make a difference,” Centeno said.
The Every Kid Learns website updates its results every five minutes. With 693,487 popular votes cast by students across the U.S. Tuesday evening, Clinton led on the national level with more than 68 percent of the electoral vote and a 12 percent lead over Trump in the popular vote.
As third-grade science teacher Vanessa Maxwell kept her students in single file outside the library, she couldn’t help but chuckle when one walked out and hollered, “I don’t know if I picked the right person.”
“It’s going to be fun to watch this one,” Maxwell said. “If the other Harmony campuses got to do it, we’re excited to join them in the process. If it’s a good indicator, I will be excited to see what the results are.”
More than 169,957 students in Texas had voted by Tuesday evening, and Clinton was leading by 55 percent to Trump’s 30 percent, according to the website.
As she spoke, one of Maxwell’s students pointed to her and asked who she would vote for. She quickly reminded him that voting for a candidate is a personal, private choice. That is when 8-year-old Clarisa Razo decided to follow her teacher’s example, saying she wasn’t going to share who she voted for because “it’s secret.”
While she didn’t reveal a name, Razo did say what makes her candidate special.
“She’s really, really nice to children, and I think she would be a good president,” Razo said. “My favorite part about today is that I don’t have to wait until I’m 18.”
Maxwell hasn’t voted yet herself, but watching her students go one by one into to the mock voting booth, she thinks they have a solid understanding of the voting process. That’s all she can ask for right now, she said.
“As adults, we feel the same way. We hope we pick the right person, and all you can do is go in with what you have and make the best guess,” Maxwell said. “We talk about that because we tie it into science about making the best guess possible.”