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Utah teen elections buck national results

Published November 5, 2012 10:06 pm

Election Day • 3 Utah schools take part in mock vote.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the national battle between blue and red states, between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the people have spoken.

Well, at least the people still in high school.

The nation's teens want Obama and Utah kids want Romney, according to results of the Voting Opportunities for Teenagers in Every State (VOTES) Project. More than 54,000 high school students from across the United States participated in the mock vote in recent weeks, including those in three Utah high schools.

Nationwide, Obama sailed into a second term, pounding Romney 50.2 percent to 41.2 percent and earning far more electoral votes as well. In Utah the results were — perhaps not surprisingly — to the contrary.

Democrat Obama took Salt Lake City's Rowland Hall, while Republican Romney conquered Bonneville High in Ogden and Provo High School.

Provo social studies teacher Philip Murphy said Romney's win at his school didn't surprise him.

"Well, we're a block away from BYU," said Murphy, referring to Brigham Young University. The university is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Romney is a member.

And Michael Edwards, an Advanced Placement U.S. government and U.S. history teacher at Bonneville High, said his students always choose the same candidate who wins the state as a whole. The shock, he said, for some students, is finding out where they really stand ideologically. Each election, he asks his students to complete online quizzes to help them gauge where they sit on the political spectrum.

"One of my students that had taken the quiz," Edwards said, "it came back with her leaning toward the liberal side, and the first thing that came out of her mouth was don't tell her parents."

Rowland Hall, however, was unabashedly blue, with 71 percent of students supporting Obama, said teacher Mike Shackelford, whose political science class ran the school election.

The private school took the exercise even further — voting on an entire ballot of local candidates and issues. Democratic congressional incumbent Jim Matheson bested challenger and rising Republican star Mia Love, winning with 68 percent of Rowland Hall's vote.

Even popular Republican Gov. Gary Herbert got booted from office at Rowland Hall, losing to Democratic challenger Peter Cooke.

"We've attracted, I guess, a slightly more liberal population base," Shackelford said.

In fact, to many students, the most surprising thing about Rowland Hall's results was that Obama didn't win by a wider margin.

"I feel like there are a lot of people in the Rowland Hall community who may not have come out [publicly] as Republican," said Rowland senior Scott Silverstein.

Ultimately, Silverstein said he voted for Obama because of his passion for the environment.

Not all his classmates agreed. Senior Megan Scaglione said she would have voted for Obama last election (had she not been 13 at the time). But this time around she mock-voted for Romney.

"We were expecting to see some amount of change," Scaglione, 17, said of Obama's first term, "and when the only change that was tangible was the deficit, it really changed my mind."

Students at the other VOTES Project schools were similarly divided.

Bonneville High senior Brieanna Olds voted for Obama, saying she agrees with his stands on social issues and the economy.

"I know a lot of people think he made mistakes with the stimulus plan," Olds said, "but I actually disagree. I think it was helpful."

Her classmate, senior Anna Nelson, sat firmly in Romney's camp. She said she's socially liberal, but voted for Romney because she's pro-business and capitalism is "really the best system for our country."

If there was one thing, however, that everyone seemed to agree on, it was the importance of voting. Some of those who participated in the mock elections will hit the polls for real Tuesday as 18-year-olds voting for the first time.

Many said those who refuse to vote have no right to complain about the nation's leaders. Plus, they said, it's a civic duty.

"This is a way to establish that you are an adult in society," said Silverstein, 18, who will officially vote Tuesday.

"It's like being able to drive," added Rowland senior Claude Atkinson-Beckwith, 17.

Rowland senior Kaitlin Ramsey, 17, said the mock election was an opportunity for students to make their voices heard.

"Instead of just listening to the dinner table conversation my parents are having," Ramsey said, "I can really think, 'Do I want Obama or this other side?'"

The national VOTES Project results have accurately predicted who will win the presidential race in five elections, missing the boat only during the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry.


Twitter: @lschencker —

See more VOTES Project results

To learn more about the VOTES Project, in which teens across the country participate in mock presidential elections, visit votes2012.org.






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