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In statewide mock election, Idaho students pick Romney, reject school reform measures

In the fourth Idaho Student Mock Election, high school seniors across the state cast online ballots last week, and today the results are out: The students narrowly picked Mitt Romney for president and backed two state constitutional amendments, but overwhelmingly turned thumbs down on the three school reform measures, Propositions 1, 2 and 3, rejecting Proposition 3 by 81 percent.

Students at 36 schools cast ballots, from Grangeville to Homedale, from Sandpoint to Wendell. Among the schools where seniors cast ballots in their high school government classes were Bishop Kelly High School in Boise, Cambridge Junior/Senior High School, Eagle Academy and Coeur d'Alene High; a total of 1,745 ballots were cast.

"It's a practical exercise in participation," said Jim Mairs, Help America Vote Act coordinator for the Idaho Secretary of State's office. "That's the whole purpose of it." The Idaho Student Mock Election is conducted by the Secretary of State's office in coordination with the State Department of Education; information is sent out to all the senior high school government and social studies teachers in the state, who have the option of registering their students to participate. Students vote in class on school computers. "We try and make it a really good teaching moment, as they call it in the Department of Education," Mairs said. "We put in everything about the propositions, all the links. If they want to read the law, they can read it."

The whole thing becomes "a very practical civics lesson," Mairs said. "This is what happens when you vote, and here's where you can find some information about some of these things. Hopefully that rubs off on some of these younger voters."

Four years ago, Idaho students backed Barack Obama for president in the mock election, but this time, he garnered just 42.9 percent support from the students, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney won with 49.9 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson got 4.4 percent; and Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 1.3 percent;  while independent Rocky Anderson had 1 percent and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode trailed with 0.5 percent.

On the school reform propositions, students rejected Proposition 1, curbing teachers' collective bargaining rights, 72 percent to 28 percent; rejected Proposition 2, a teacher merit-pay bonus plan, 75-25; and said no to Proposition 3, regarding school technology, laptop computers and online learning, 81-19 percent.

The students backed both SJR 102, a one-word change to the state Constitution regarding county management of misdemeanor probation services, and HJR2aa, adding a right to hunt, fish and trap to the Idaho Constitution, by 69 percent each. They also cast ballots on congressional races, picking Republican Rep. Mike Simpson in the 2nd District race over Democratic challenger  Nicole LeFavour, 59-41; and choosing GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, 49.7 percent, over challengers Jimmy Farris, Democrat, 31.2; Pro-Life, independent, 9.6; and Rob Oates, Libertarian, 9.5.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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