October 28, 2008 in Idaho

Idaho students favor Obama in mock election

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

Mock election results

Idaho high school seniors cast 4,704 ballots last week in a mock election. Results were tallied Monday and include:

President: D-Barack Obama (47.8 percent); R-John McCain (45.6 percent); Independent-Ralph Nader (4 percent); Libertarian-Bob Barr (1.6 percent); Constitution Party-Chuck Baldwin (1 percent).

U.S. Senate: R-Jim Risch (47.7 percent); D-Larry LaRocco (34.7 percent); “Pro-Life” (7.1 percent); Independent-Rex Rammell (6.5 percent); Libertarian-Kent Marmon (4 percent).

U.S. House of Representatives: 1st Congressional District, R-Bill Sali (52.8 percent); D-Walt Minnick (47.2 percent). 2nd Congressional District, R-Mike Simpson (65.9 percent); D-Deborah Holmes (34.1 percent).

BOISE – Idaho high school seniors who participated in a statewide mock election picked Democrat Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States.

In other results that Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa called “rather intriguing,” the students also favored Republican Jim Risch for U.S. Senate over Democrat Larry LaRocco, and Republican incumbent Bill Sali for the 1st Congressional District seat over Democrat Walt Minnick.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office sponsored the mock election, in which students taking government classes at 54 schools across the state cast 4,704 online ballots Thursday and Friday. “Obviously, Obama and youth connect,” Ysursa said. “That was apparent. … I don’t think anybody believes that Obama is going to win Idaho in the real deal.” Given the election’s other results, though, “I think they might be pretty close – who knows? We’ll see,” he said.

The students also suggested two of their own ballot measures. The results: 53 percent favored lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, with 47 percent opposed; an overwhelming 73.5 percent favored exempting groceries from the sales tax, to just 26.5 percent opposed.

Ysursa, who co-sponsored the student mock election with state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, said having students suggest their own ballot propositions helped the students feel involved.

Students from Coeur d’Alene High School made McCain their winner in the presidential race, while rival Lake City High students chose Obama. In Sandpoint, where GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was born, Obama still prevailed.

Ysursa said he’s happy with the results, and hopes to expand the statewide student mock election in future years. Interestingly, teachers had registered more than 7,000 students at 65 schools to participate, but in the final vote, there were 4,704 ballots cast from 54 schools. That’s a voter turnout of 67 percent.

The online voting worked fine, Ysursa said, with help from teacher control and password protections, but he’s not advocating Internet voting for Idaho’s real elections. Before that’s considered for regular elections, he said, “Somebody needs to assure me that it’s 110 percent hack-proof. It’s too important a right in the system.” But, he said, “In this case, it worked.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email