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NC High School Students Vote in Big Numbers in First Vote NC’s Inaugural Statewide Simulation Election

first-vote-nc-logoMore than 32,000 students from 76 high schools in nearly half of all North Carolina counties participated in a statewide simulation election run by First Vote NC. First Vote NC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage and motivate students to become active and informed voters once they turn 18. High school students voted on the federal, state and local races that appeared on the ballot for their school’s precinct.  Seventy-four middle schools also participated with those students voting on federal and statewide contests.

In partnership with EdNC, Carolina K-12, and the NC Department of Public Instruction, First Vote NC has developed a comprehensive approach to voter education that offers schools an online voter platform for simulation elections; project-based lesson plans for teachers; free enrollment in Turbo Vote; an exit poll survey; and a data analysis forum designed specifically for North Carolina public and charter high schools.

Election results – some of which mirrored the statewide results and some of which differed from them – and the exit poll data can be viewed at www.firstvotenc.org. Results are provided for individual high schools and statewide. To see results from schools in your area, click on precinct results.

The Exit Poll posed ten demographic and civic engagement questions, and two statewide issue questions. Educators, students, and the public have an opportunity to see how this data correlates to election results, revealing how various factors like gender, future party affiliation, race, news sources, religious service attendance, your likelihood to vote, and parent voting behavior, might influence student voting.

Hunter Buxton, Executive Director of First Vote, stated, “We must turn the tide of civic disengagement and impress upon young people that the first step towards solving the myriad challenges their generation will face is to become knowledgeable and engaged participants in the civic life of our country.”

The two statewide issue questions were developed by a group of 150 4-H student leaders. They read as follows: 1) Should more life skills classes be included in the curriculum? 2) In the context of smartphones and computers, what is more important privacy or public safety?  A clear majority of 86 percent voted yes to more life skills classes in the public schools, while students were split nearly evenly on the privacy/public safety question.

In addition to the online voter platform and results, the First Vote initiative provided educators with a comprehensive selection of lesson plans with everything from voter laws, to how the Electoral College works, to data analysis instruction.

Each school developed their own plan to utilize the resources First Vote provided.  Examples of school efforts include students creating websites with candidate information; requiring voter registration in order to participate; developing additional issue-based questions for the ballot; adding questions to gauge student perceptions about their school; and holding student government elections along with the general election.  Schools staged debates, hosted local elected officials, and ran get out the vote campaigns.

Early estimates show that only 50 percent of eligible 18-to-29 year olds voted in this election. Schools, with leadership from civics teachers, can play a vital role in developing motivated and informed citizens who fully participate in the civic life of our state and nation.

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