Pendleton High School students would elect Knute Buehler to the governor’s mansion, send U.S. Rep. Greg Walden back to Congress and preserve Oregon’s sanctuary state status.
About 200 students in Brian Johnson’s and Brian Whitten’s government classes participated last week in a mock, mid-term election. Students voted 99-66 for Republican Buehler over Gov. Kate Brown, Democrat, and 103-68 for Republican Walden over Democrat challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the race for Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District. The students also voted down all statewide ballot measures save Measure 102, which allows local bonds for financing affordable housing with nongovernmental entities.
“The purpose of conducting a mock election is to demonstrate to students how one becomes an informed voter (a characteristic of a responsible citizen), how to vote, and the importance of voting,” Johnson said. “We spent about four days on the whole process. A lot of time.”
Seniors Samuel Attridge, 17, Daphny Chen, 18, and Maggie Scanlan, 17, said getting informed meant they and the other students read the Oregon League of Women Voters on the pros and cons of Oregon’s ballot measures. They watched one of the televised debates between Brown and Buehler. They read articles in the East Oregonian on the Umatilla County commissioner race and the Second Amendment Ordinance. They also said candid discussions were essential, and Johnson challenged students to question what they believed and why.
“He plays a good Devil’s advocate,” Attridge said.
Many of the students start with what they have heard from parents or other adults, Scanlan said, but students learn to move beyond that small circle. She also said she may think a fellow student’s notions are off base, but the class helped her to realize others may think that of her notions. Chen said students learn “peaceful, civil discourse” and to search for common ground.
“It also makes you see it’s not just black and white,” she said. “There’s a lot of gray.”
Attridge said that came through in the discussion on Measure 105, which would repeal the law limiting state and local police agencies from enforcing federal immigration laws. Students differed on the measure, he said, but the conversations revealed they agreed the nation needs immigration reform. Although, Scanlan added, what shape that takes is the question.
PHS students failed the measure 113-77.
The classes also discussed voter turnout and the trend of older people voting more than younger people.
Turnout in the May primary was a meager 34 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s election data. The office tracked voter registration and participation age in that election. Oregon had more than 718,000 eligible voters 18-34, yet only 13.2 percent voted.
Umatilla County had 12,498 voters in the age group, and 10.8 percent returned ballots. Morrow County had 1,587 eligible voters 18-34, but 11.3 percent — or 179 individuals — participated.
Voters 65 and up had the highest statewide turnout — 61 percent of 647,584 returned ballots.
Chen said younger people don’t see the benefit to voting because candidates and measures are not taking on their problems, such as the burden of college debt. Scanlan said young voters need to realize participating now pays off later because large voting groups get the attention of politicians. Attridge said smartphone technology could be one way to get younger people to vote.
“We need to make voting cool,” Scanlan said.
The trio also were keen on how Oregon conducts elections because of the ease of voting. They said the state is on the right track with the motor voter registration. Attridge and Scanlan said the mock election was a good primer for them to participate in real elections in the future. Chen agreed that voting young can set up a habit for life.
“I already voted,” she said.