by Sarah Einselen
LOGANSPORT — More than 30 children, carrying laminated ID cards with their picture and their first name, lined up to register to vote during a field trip to a mock voting center set up Wednesday morning at the Cass County Government Building — nearly all of them several years away from their first real election.
The group of home-schooled children from Logansport and the surrounding area filled out voter registration forms, received voting PIN numbers from a county clerk’s assistant acting as a pollworker, and voted on the county’s electronic voting machines. They chose classmates for categories like prettiest eyes, fastest eater and most organized.
They were “silly questions,” said Cara Mills, a Walton instructor for the Logansport Homeschool Cooperative’s third- through fifth-grade history class, but the process the children were studying was anything but.
Home-schooled students in third through 12th grades, members of three cooperative classes, visited with Cass County Clerk Beth Liming for about two hours on Wednesday to see the voting process first-hand and participate in a mock election. They’re some of the 80 students enrolled in the cooperative.
Liming said they were the first student group she’s had for a mock voting day in her four years as clerk, but the event was worth every minute of the two to three hours spent preparing for their visit and the time spent explaining voting rules and what would be different in a real voting scenario — even during her office’s busy election season.
“It’s very, very important that they learn some of this process at an early age,” Liming said. “Even if they pick up and learn one thing, it’s worth it.”
Mills, who organized the field trip, said her first time voting intimidated her. Even though her mother had been a poll worker, she had never seen inside a voting booth and was unsure what to do.
“I was terrified, and I don’t want any young voter to feel that,” said Mills. She hoped the mock voting day would not only ease the fear of voting for the first time, but instill a passion for electoral participation, too.
Voting is “not only a wonderful opportunity to mold our country in the way that we want, but also a responsibility,” Mills added.
Some of the students had already campaigned for president in a mock election in the cooperative’s junior high elections class. Amanda Eltzeroth, a Kokomo 12-year-old, won six votes out of the class of 10 running as the Democratic party candidate.
But she’d never seen electronic voting machines before.
“I think it will be interesting to use the actual machines,” Amanda said before her turn came to vote. They were completely different from the paper ballots her parents have used to vote in Kokomo, she explained.
When she keyed in her computer-generated PIN number that pulled up her class’s ballot on the voting machine, she was surprised to see her own name in the running for prettiest eyes.
She decided instead to vote for her friend Ashlin Day, a 13-year-old from Lucerne.
Ashlin’s older brother, Josh Day, was the only registered voter in the group of home-schooled students. He turns 18 just four days before the Nov. 6 election, and said Wednesday’s field trip was the first time he had seen the electronic voting machines he’ll use on Election Day.
“I’ve been told this will be the most important election I’ll vote in,” said Josh. “It’s neat, in a way.”
He added that he expects to be a little nervous when the time comes to really vote.
“Hopefully I won’t mess up,” Josh said.
For the rest, the day allowed them to ask Liming about the voting process, the machines and anything else they wanted to know.
“It’s a learning experience for me, too,” Liming said of the mock election. “It’s been fun to help the younger generation walk away with something.”
• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.