Ellis students cast their votes

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 6, 2000

Two years ago, if the pollsters had listened to the voters at Ellis Middle School, Jesse Ventura’s victory wouldn’t have been a surprise.

Monday, November 06, 2000

Two years ago, if the pollsters had listened to the voters at Ellis Middle School, Jesse Ventura’s victory wouldn’t have been a surprise.

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This year, according to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at the school, Gore will win by a hair. He won all three grades: the sixth grade voted 132-123 for Gore; the seventh grade, 127-124; and the eighth grade, 139-95.

The voting experience was set up to mimic the real thing as closely as possible. Students had to register to vote first, then they were handed an exact copy of the ballot their parents will receive Tuesday. They voted in real election booths, and their ballots were secret. A reporter pestered them – some of them – as they left the polls.

The seventh-graders voted on Thursday, and the sixth-graders on Wednesday. Voting on Friday gave the eighth-graders an extra couple days to bone up on their politics and they had the widest margin between the two candidates.

The logic behind the voting was a mixture of issues, experience and personality.

"It seems like Bush isn’t open to lots of ideas," eighth-grader Katie Brody said Friday while waiting to vote. "Gore is open to more ideas that our generation believes in. Bush seems like he’s for the older generation."

"Bush is mean to gay people," Susie Bryan said. "Gore is nicer."

"Gore has had two four-year terms as vice president; he should know what he’s doing," Cameron Hunter said. "I’m more worried about experience. A lot of people come and say they’ll do this and they’ll do that, but they don’t know how they’ll accomplish what they promise."

Support for Gore was by no means unanimous.

Hayley Fisher voted for Bush because he’s pro-life and because she likes what he stands for. Kelly Reetz also liked Bush.

"He seems like a family person and he doesn’t really believe in abortion like Gore does," she said. "He also seems more positive and doesn’t change his mind."

While Reetz is taking the election very seriously – she watched all the debates, has read part of a book on Gore and discusses the candidates with her grandparents – some of the students don’t really care.

"About half the kids have been pretty bored with our discussions and research leading up to the election," social studies teacher Michelle McHenry said. "The other half was really into it. They had lots of things to say about everything."

Issues that McHenry and fellow social studies teacher Gretchen Kimmes focused on included education, civil rights, abortion and the environment.

"With civil rights, we talked about affirmative action, quotas, gay rights," Kimmes said. "Gay rights are really at the forefront of the civil rights arguments now.

"Education is an issue that will affect every one of them – soon they’ll have to think about college loans, scholarships."

The pro-life, pro-choice debate was the main concern for McHenry’s seventh-graders, with students on both sides of the fence. Environment was another issue with a few strong voices – most of those voted for Nader. Nader got a total of 26 votes from the seventh grade, results from the other two grades didn’t include the third-party candidate.


How Ellis voted

Ellis Middle School students voted for local candidates as well as federal offices.

– For U.S. Senate, DFLer Mark Dayton got 131 votes from the sixth-graders, Republican Rod Grams got 81, Socialist Workers candidate Rebecca Ellis got 28 and Independence Party candidate Jim Gibson got 13. The seventh-graders also elected Dayton, by a vote of 136 to 66, with Gibson coming in third place. Dayton won the eighth grade vote as well, with 130 votes to Grams’ 74. Third-party candidates came in way behind: Gibson with 20 votes; the Constitution Party’s David Swan with six, Ellis with 23 and Grassroots Party’s David Daniels with seven.

– For Congress, Republican Gil Gutknecht beat DFLer Mary Rieder in all three grades, with Austin resident and Libertarian party candidate Rich Osness culling about 20 votes in each grade.

– For state House, DFLer Rob Leighton beat out Republican Jeff Anderson in the eighth grade, but lost the sixth- and seventh-grade votes.

– For state Senate, DFLer Pat Piper won the sixth and seventh grades, while Republican Grace Schwab won the eighth grade.

– According to the seventh-graders, the majority vote on the referendum on land annexation near the J.C. Hormel Nature Center will be a "no" vote. They voted 184 to 80 against the annexation. The sixth- and eighth-grade votes on the referendum weren’t reported.