Election simulation gives students a voice 

Opportunity to understand process


As millions of people cast their mail-in ballots or vote in-person, students also cast their votes in the Acalanes Virtual Election Simulation. Replicating the actual election, students learn about candidates and issues on a local and nationwide level, receive a ballot, and cast their ballot on Election Day. 

Registration for the third annual Acalanes Election Simulation opened on Oct. 5. To register, students can log onto the library page of the school website and complete a Google form by the end of the school day on Oct. 30. Registered students will receive a ballot through email, which they must return by 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3rd.

This simulation teaches students approaching voting age about the actual election process and how important it is to exercise the right to vote.

“By having this project for three continuous years, Acalanes students have been through nearly an entire four-year election cycle. Seniors will know what to expect and will hopefully see registering and casting a ballot as something you automatically do,” head of the Election Simulation and librarian Barbara Burkhalter said.

According to Child Trends, a research organization focused on improving youth’s lives, from 1972 to 2016, the proportion of youth ages 18 to 24 who reported voting in presidential elections decreased from 50 to 39 percent. Participation at Acalanes, however, increased from 27 percent in the 2018 Midterm Election Simulation to 56 percent in the 2020 California Primary Election, according to Burkhalter.

“I think this is because of better communication from us and from their teachers making the connection between the registration process and then the next step, filling out and casting their ballot,” Burkhalter said.

Many people at Acalanes hope the election simulation will familiarize students with the voting process and increase the number of young voters. 

I believe it is important for students to participate in the Election Simulation because it is a good introduction to one of the rights we will have when we’re 18 and it’s also important to be aware and participate in current issues,” junior Caroline Crossland said.

While the presidential election affects all Americans, not having a say in political actions can be discouraging for many teens. 

“I’m frustrated that I’m not able to vote in the actual presidential election. This election will be one of the most important elections during my lifetime, and I’m only missing being able to vote by two months,” senior Jessica Chu said.

Many other students share this frustration and yearn to participate in the decisions that shape their lives.

“The decisions made by the next president will affect Gen Z more than any other generation because of how different Trump and Biden’s climate change policies are. It’s unfair that we don’t get a say in our own future,” junior Katrina Ortman said.

The simulation will not only include the candidates for president, but also for state senator, state assemblyperson, House of Representatives for our local district, and the Acalanes district  school board, as well as five state propositions and a measure for Contra Costa County. 

The majority of students believe participation is crucial for the actual election.

“I think that it is especially important to participate this year due to our country being at stake from social unrest, COVID-19, our weather drastically changing from climate change. Our whole country will either go in a really progressive direction or a conservative direction, depending on which candidate gets elected,” Crossland said. 

Not only is it especially important to vote in this election, but students also acknowledge that voting is key to our democracy for all elections.

There’s a large chunk of voters who think the only time they need to vote is for the president, but there are a lot of other elections that are really important. It doesn’t just happen every few years, they happen every few months. The simulation teaches students about the other things on the ballot besides the [presidential nominees],” English teacher Erik Honda said.

With a political divide growing in the country, students hope to reconstruct our democracy through the eradication of polarized political parties.

“People shouldn’t vote for a candidate just because they are Democrat or Republican, or because their parents vote for them. They should vote for the candidate whose morals align the most with their own,” Ortman said.