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Westminster students take politics into their own hands with mock debate, voting

Local presidential election results will be in a bit earlier for students at Westminster High School.

Students at the school can vote for president through an online system Thursday, and results will be available Friday.

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Before that, though, students in all four grades at the school participated in a two-part assembly Wednesday during which two groups got to debate current political issues.

On one side of the stage sat six students representing Republican views, with five students on the other side representing Democratic views. Ninth- and 11th-grade students attended the first assembly, 10th- and 12th-graders the second.

Each group was required to give opening statements before answering about 10 questions, with the chance for rebuttal. Topics that were raised included some that presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have debated, from the cost of higher education and taxes to health care and foreign policy.

They've done these types of student mock debates at Westminster High since 1992, said Arthur Matthews, social studies department chair.

The online voting system that the school will use is "sponsored by the Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI), a national civics education program based at the University of Virginia Center for Politics," according to a news release from the school system.

About one million students are expected to vote across the election, according to the release. The YLI Mock Election is the largest, student-only online mock election in the nation.

"[The students] definitely are excited about the debate and the mock election," Matthews said.

Chloe Sedlar, a freshman at Westminster High, said she thought Wednesday's mock debate was informative. Sometimes the students contradicted themselves, she said, but overall they made their points.

"I think it's cool to hear everyone's opinion in the school," the 14-year-old said.

Sedlar said she thinks the Republican Party will win the school's vote.

Julia Cecil, another ninth-grader who attended the assembly, thinks the school would swing the other way. While Cecil said she and her twin sister, Alexa, will be voting Republican, she thinks the school will go Democratic.

Cecil said people need to get out and vote. "I think it's important to get involved in politics," she added.

Westminster High students aren't the only Carroll County kids getting involved in the election.

The political science class at Manchester Valley High School is holding a presidential campaign through Monday, Oct. 31, and there will be a mock debate on Oct. 31 for juniors and seniors during an extended advisory period, according to a release from the school system. All students will be able to vote for their choice of U.S. president during the four lunch periods that day.

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Northwest Middle School will hold its own mock election on Thursday, Nov. 3.

Students and teachers listen to the mock presidental debate at Westminster High School on Wednesday.
Students and teachers listen to the mock presidental debate at Westminster High School on Wednesday. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

This election is unlike any other that Westminster High social studies teacher Anna Skinner has seen.

Skinner, who teaches ninth-grade government and 10th grade U.S. history, said this year she's heard a lot of students talking about the election, especially as their mock debate and mock election approached.

"I think it's an awesome opportunity," she said.

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7862

twitter.com/emilychappell13



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