HARWICH – When members of Monomoy Regional High School's Political Action Club attended the Iowa Caucus at the beginning of February, a woman suggested that the students hold their own caucus at school upon their return.
Realizing they could make it happen, club members, under the tutelage of teacher John Dickson and with the permission of Principal Bill Burkhead, organized the school's first Mock Caucus for seniors on March 2. The goal was to educate students about the candidates in the 2020 presidential race.
“So many seniors have no idea what they're voting for and they probably won't even exercise their right to vote if they don't know who the candidates are,” said senior and club member Alison Barrett. “It's not a lot of people's top priority to research candidates on their own time, so by taking time out of the school day to make candidates' issues more apparent to them, I think that was really important.”
Prior to the event, Evans made a chart with the names of each candidate and a list of their stances on issues such as gun control, immigration, healthcare, the legalization of marijuana, and the economy. After students had a chance to review the charts, PAC students gave speeches in support of the candidates they were representing.
Then students had the opportunity to vote with their feet by joining fellow supporters at tables for each candidate to determine viability of that candidate. The most heavily populated tables were for Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.
Barrett and fellow club member Holly Evans said they felt peer pressure definitely played a part in the open format event.
“I was surprised by how many people went to the Trump table,” said Barrett. “I can be sure that not everybody at that table was a true Trump supporter. I know for a fact that some of those people are not conservative. But when you have a process that's not secret and have such a participatory thing going on, a lot of people will be influenced by their friends. I think that definitely had an influence on the results today.”
“A lot of people go off the whims of the internet, or take what they know from their parents, but don't really look inside of themselves,” added Evans.
Lily Ryan, who also helped coordinate the event, said the top priority was educating students on the different candidates.
“I truly believe that it's so important to have everyone be educated,” Ryan said. “I have my own personal beliefs, and I know everyone else does, but at the end of the day I just want everyone to vote and be educated when they vote. I don't care who you vote for as long as you vote with a purpose and are educated about it. More educated voters is what this country needs right now. We need to focus less on what people are tweeting and the scandals, and stick to the issues and policies.”
The group held the mock caucus on the day before the Massachusetts Primaries in order to encourage more students to vote, and vote with awareness.
“I think that it's insanely important to get people to vote,” said Evans. “I think this was a very valuable experience for a lot of them because they either came in and reassured themselves in their views or were able to change and figure things out.”
“I'm proud of all of us for being here today,” said Barrett. “It is something that a lot of kids don't think about on the daily, and I think it's important for them to think about it. We are either all adults or all going to be adults in the next couple of months, and we should start acting like it. We can't just ignore what's going on. It effects us on a day-to-day basis.”