While most American voters are heading to the polls today, Bensalem High School students chose their candidates yesterday.
During a mock election held at the school, 58.2 percent of those who voted chose Hillary Clinton to be the next president.
Donald Trump got 32.8 percent of the vote, while Libertarian Gary Johnson took 7 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein trailed far behind with 2 percent.
“To see how engaged they are in this election and the election process is really encouraging,” said AP psychology and honors American government teacher Anthony Micalizzi. “We have some seniors who are really excited to vote for the first time. We want those freshmen to be just as excited because they are going to be our future voters.
“Teaching is one thing, but seeing the process in action is invaluable.”
Students also voted on vice presidential candidates, and the U.S. Senate, 8th Congressional District, Pennsylvania treasurer and attorney general races.
For BHS senior Matthew Garfield, the mock election was just a warm up. The 18-year-old would be voting for the first time on Election Day. Garfield said he’s been increasingly interested in politics and government, which started at school with an AP U.S. government class taught by Andrew Foley, who was running the mock election with Micalizzi.
“The issues are different for us compared with someone in their early thirties or older,” Garfield said. “I feel Trump has turned off a lot of voters, just by the way he acts and his demeanor … I can’t vote for someone who has such a lack of respect for women. I wouldn’t want someone to treat my mom or my grandmother that way.”
Garfield said he’s on the side of most of his classmates in voting for Clinton based on her resume, and stances on issues of women’s rights, college tuition, the environment and others. But his vote is not without reservation. He brought up her email controversy, as well as what he perceived to be a lack of authenticity from Clinton in the presidential debates, as concerns.
Nelson Negron, a 17-year-old junior, was ineligible to vote on Election Day, but he did make his voice heard during the mock election, to a different tune than many of his classmates.
“She’s been telling everybody our classified secrets,” Negron said of Clinton. “For me, I want to go into the military, and I don’t want someone like that.”
Negron has recently become engaged in politics because he feels it’s important as he approaches adulthood. The Republican ideals resonate more with him, he said, and he has supported Trump throughout the election.
“I’d rather have him for the four years, because anything we hear from him, we know that’s what he’s going to do,” Negron said. “Whether it’s wrong or right, he’s not lying about anything.”
Foley and Micalizzi said the presidential campaign has dominated conversation among students. In speaking with them, that was obviously at the forefront.
Students stuck with the Democratic ticket for other races, choosing Katie McGinty over incumbent Pat Toomey in the U.S. Senate race; Joe Torsella over Otto Volt in the state treasurer race; and Josh Shapiro over John Rafferty in the PA attorney general race.
Interestingly, Republican candidate Brian Fitzpatrick edged Democrat Steve Santarsiero by 3.2 percent in the 8th District mock election. Santarsiero used to be a history teacher at Bensalem High School, but long before any of these students attended class there.
Some of the students who were voting for Democrats elsewhere said they were choosing Fitzpatrick based on their experience and familiarity with his brother, Mike, the current 8th District representative. Some seniors voting the next day said they would get more information on both candidates and make a decision that night.
That’s a decision encouraged all along by their teachers.
“We really challenge the kids to dive a little bit deeper than just what the media may see or say, and make their own decisions,” Foley said. “We want them to understand what they’re voting for and what they may be voting against.”