Future voters pull back curtain

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Annette Cosme, bottom right, with the Secretary of State's office, explains how the voting machines work to Live Oak High School students who line up to vote Thursday for student council representatives using voting machines provided by the Secretary of State's Office.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Annette Cosme, bottom right, with the Secretary of State's office, explains how the voting machines work to Live Oak High School students who line up to vote Thursday for student council representatives using voting machines provided by the Secretary of State's Office.

Anna Robertson was apprehensive as she entered the voting booth Thursday at Live Oak High School.

As the 15-year-old cast her vote for student council representative, Robertson said, she immediately became comfortable using the machine.

About 1,000 students at Live Oak High School received a firsthand lesson on how to use voting machines, supplied by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office for the school’s student council elections.

“We all understood that none of us are experienced voters,” Robertson said. “This experience took the pressure off. I think we will be prepared now (when we do vote in a real election) instead of walking in the voting booth for the first time.”

Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said the office brings voting machines to schools across the state to teach students how to vote. She said the program also allows 17-year-olds to register to vote, although they can’t vote in a real election until they’re 18.

“By us being at the school with the voting machines, when the students do vote for the first time at 18, it’s not a foreign thing,” she said.

Joey Carroll did his homework and learned about each student council candidate before stepping into the booth.

For him, the voting experience took only 30 seconds.

“What I like most about it is that it really helps the students take voting seriously,” Carroll said. “No one will sway your decision because you know it will be done fair. This makes (the election) more official.”

Teacher and student council sponsor Michelle Morris said students need to learn about the candidates before stepping into the voting booth. She said she hopes that relates to real life.

“When it comes time for them to vote, I want them to make an informed decision,” Morris said.

Morris said the voting exercise, which has been conducted at the school for several years, takes away the peer pressure that can be involved in student council elections.

Before using the machines, students would simply write their selections on sheets of paper, causing many students to get hassled by their peers.

The machines also help the school administration eliminate the time and work involved in calculating the winners.

Sophomores through juniors voted to elect student council representatives, class favorites and homecoming representatives. Seniors, Morris said, voted on their class representatives at the end of the last school year, and will use the machines again to elect the homecoming court.

Each of the English classes took less than five minutes to vote, she said.

Prior to the voting, candidates gave speeches and posted flyers and posters throughout the school. Those elected will be the liaisons between the students and school administrators.

The real winners, however, are the 1,000 students, Morris contends.

“It’s a good promotion for their voting rights,” Morris said. “It promotes their rights as an American citizen to have a voice.”

“They learned that voting really matters,” she said.

Live Oak High School election results

Freshman student council: Ean Hill, Cameron Ruiz

Freshman homecoming: Cameron Seals, Presley Wascom

Freshman class favorites: Sophie Nolan, Scotty Smith

Sophomore student council: Amber Cook, Daniel Larson, Victoria Williams

Sophomore homecoming: Mary Claire Johnson, Hannah Greer

Sophomore class favorites: Lauren Brown, Trevor Landry

Junior student council: Mary Kate Andrepont, Corley Chutz, Anna Robertson, Victor Rushing

Junior homecoming: Mary Kate Andrepont, Alympia Johnson

Junior class favorites: Alympia Johnson, Jules Laird

Senior student council: Taylor Hubert, president; Brandon Whitley, vice-president; Alex Berthelot, Alex Rand, Daryl Roberts and Shelbi White