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Bush nudges Kerry in mock election

By Greg Gelpi

Bush wins.

In a mock election held in schools across the nation, President George W. Bush won his re-election bid, carrying Georgia as well. On paper and online, students voted in the Youth Leadership Initiative mock election.

Nationally, Bush pulled in 50.9 percent of the vote, while Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry had 45.59 percent. Ralph Nader eked out less than 2 percent and Libertarian Michael Badnarik had 1 percent of the votes. None of the other 14 candidates on the ballot received more than 1 percent.

"He's been a great president," said Staci Ray, a Lovejoy Middle School seventh-grader. "He stood firm through all of the battles in Iraq."

Her classmate, Tyrone Gay, though, sees it differently.

"There have been more soldiers killed since the war ended," Gay said.

Kerry is saying a lot, but Ray doubts he would actually do anything if elected president.

Both students said they formed their opinions based on information and comments from their parents.

"My mom just says she wants Bush out of office," Gay said. "He's the cause of the skyrocketing oil prices."

Often times that's the case, Lisa Dastous said of children modeling their opinions after their parents. The mock election could be an indicator of how the children's parents will vote and could be an indicator of the actual results.

"(The students) are probably voting on what they hear from home," said Dastous, the head of Lovejoy Middle's social studies department. "The way the kids vote will probably show us how the parents will vote."

Many of the students at Kemp Elementary School agree.

Kemp Elementary held a separate in-house mock election in which Kerry won resoundingly.

"If a lot of students voted for Kerry, then a lot of parents could vote for Kerry," Kemp student Jalia Clay said.

And while they may be small in size, they hold opinions as strong as adults.

"I felt that Bush should never have been elected," fifth-grader Erika Smith said, adding that Bush cheated in Florida.

Although many of the Kemp students were sure of their preferences for president, many weren't sure as to why.

"I just don't like Bush," Angela McLarin said. "I just like Kerry better."

For Holly Hampton, though, it came down to Bush's stuttering during the presidential debates.

The students were required to watch the debates, while also learning about the democratic and election processes.

The students fervor for Kerry was only matched for their distaste of the electoral college.

"If you vote, your vote should count for something," RaDrecia Hinnant said.

At Kemp Elementary, Kerry pulled in 647 votes to Bush's 208 votes.

Students from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and American schools abroad voted online in the Youth Leadership mock election during the past two weeks.

Students logged into www.youthleadership.net and were able to vote on president as well as local races and general issues relevant to school children.

In Georgia, Johnny Isakson defeated Denise Majette for the U.S. Senate seat.

More than 70 percent of Georgia students said that the law should be changed to ban smoking in most public places.

Students in the state oppose re-establishing the draft and oppose requiring community service for high school graduation.