The juniors in AP Government teacher Michelle Semancik’s classes ran a mock election as a class project and elected a “president” on Nov. 7.
Each of the two classes created a false political party to represent and choose one of their classmates as a presidential candidate. It was then the students’ responsibility to campaign, advertise, and find endorsements while staying within a $2,000,000 budget of fake money. Each party was responsible for making up issues that did not relate to the real presidential race. Semancik wanted the focus of the project to be on how well the campaigns were run, not the ideological issues the parties supported.
Semancik said the inspiration for the project actually came from the students. “It was for the most part student-driven,” Semancik said. “The students had the idea, and I decided to take that enthusiasm and use it as a teaching tool.”
Semancik’s third bell class chose J. Michael Massie for their presidential nominee, with Adam Dill as his running mate. They decided to name their party the Blue Jay party in honor of Massie’s first initial ‘J.’ The party supported puppies, the finding of Nemo, and making sure all students receive a Hogwarts’ acceptance letter. The party was endorsed by eight teachers as well as principal Patty Beckert.
The sixth bell class elected Daniel Sandmann for president and Grace Hiltz as his vice presidential running mate. The class became the Bear Party, in honor of AP History teacher John Kirchgassner. Kirchgassner has a running joke with students that if they pass a test they ‘kill the bear,’ and If they don’t pass, ‘the bear’ got them. They were for ending teddy bear abuse and abandonment, the proper use of hash tags, and the fight against cancer. The party received endorsements from ten teachers and school celebrity “Kylie Rae Jepson.”
Each party hung at least 40 posters, put multiple ads in the announcements, and made a commercial. In addition, each party made banners, go-and-vote signs, and gave out cookies at lunch. By the end of the project, Semancik felt it was a successful project.
“I was hoping they would get a good sense of what it takes to get a candidate elected based on message and finances,” Semancik said. “For the most part, I feel like everyone got a good sense of what it takes to run a campaign.”
The candidates also felt that the project was a fun way to learn the campaign process. “I liked the project because we got the whole class working together,” Massie said. “We had to do everything real candidates have to do.”
Sandmann said he learned a lot about how difficult it is to run an effective campaign. “I learned how we had to manage our finances and find endorsements,” Sandmann said. “I also learned how hard it is to run a clean campaign, without attack ads.”
On Nov. 7, the day after Election Day, the entire student body was able to vote via an electronic ballot. Semancik also put together an electoral college of 13 teachers, who would chose who they thought was the winner based on the work done by the students. The popular vote results were 40% for Massie and 60% for Sandmann, and Sandmann won in the Electoral College by one vote.