"Oh man, this is so hard," fifth-grader Giovani Alvarez said under his breath as he used a Chromebook to vote in Friday's La Rosa Elementary School Student Council race.
"It's hard because there's so many good people."
The myriad of choices were also overwhelming vice presidential candidate Jorge Del Valle who waded through 19 candidates seeking six offices.
With the American election season in full swing, La Rosa Elementary School officials wanted to make the process of electing a Student Council to seem as close to real-world voting for students. That's why the election went high-tech and included the borrowing of actual voting booths from the Stanislaus County Elections Division.
"We wanted to make this as real as possible," said Pedro
Macias, La Rosa's community liaison.
Friday's election involved approximately 300 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders using voting booths, or sitting down to laptops. Balloting incorporated the use of Chromebooks with students using a Google form as a ballot. Students scrolled through names and photos of the candidates and tapped on the ones they were voting for. After finishing they left Room 30 with "I Voted" stickers.
Voting precinct etiquette was also taught when a staff member cried out, "Shhhhh, Damien, it's private and it's quiet."
Leading up to the election, prospective candidates went through a multi-step process, including filling out an application, facing an interview panel, running a campaign, and delivering a Thursday speech in front of peers. The campaign process took about a month, and, reported Macias, "all the candidates worked very hard."
Principal Lori Mariani explained that unlike the real world of politics, the school weeded out the candidates - seven in all - who didn't appear to be that serious about running. But she noted the candidates were grilled during the interview with a question used in the CUSD interview process: "What three characteristics make you qualified for this position?"
"We're trying to give them real life experiences all the way around, such as going to an interview and speaking in public," said Mariani. "Technically they could have voted in their classroom because they each have a Chromebook but we really wanted them to get the idea you go to a location, you get the sticker. We wanted them to get the feel for what you do when you vote."
Candidates were coached about how to deal with loss since the majority were going to face defeat.
The election results were not announced on CNN or Fox, but given quietly to two groups split up based on winning and losing.
"We talked about announcing it but there's going to be some pretty upset kids," said Mariani. "I talked to them a little bit yesterday about how I was class president in my senior year but there were years before that I ran for stuff and didn't get it and had I not kept going I wouldn't have finally made it. I said, ‘Some of you guys aren't going to make it this year, maybe you'll do it next year.'"
Carroll Fowler Elementary School conducted the same election format for its class elections after staff there got the idea from Macias.
The winners of the contest were: Jillian Mande, president; Malika Zhu, vice president; Isabel Jimenez, secretary; Caleb Overman, historian; Dylan Choup, student representative; and Klarytsa Martinez, treasurer.