IDAHO FALLS — Seventeen-year-old Conner Whitwell voted with a smile Tuesday.
Clad in a camouflage hat bearing the Donald Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” Whitwell was one of roughly 900 Skyline High School students who packed the library to vote in the school’s long-running mock election.
“We’ve been doing this since at least 1990 because voting is the bedrock of our democracy,” said government teacher Billy Wixom. “It’s one of the few ways to let your voice be heard these days.”
Every four years, Wixom and a few other teachers host the election in the library, where students have their say on the presidential candidates, as well as those running for national House and Senate seats.
The kids also vote on a variety of school initiatives. This year, they’ll decide whether or not swimming should be recognized as a school-sponsored sport and whether transgender students should be able to use the school bathrooms of their choice.
“We have them add their own initiatives to emphasize that elections aren’t just about the presidential candidates,” said Wixom.
Computers allow the votes to be tallied immediately after submission. By noon Tuesday, Trump had edged Clinton by two percentage points. Independent candidate Evan McMullin was running a distant third.
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Skyline students usually choose the Republican candidate, Wixom said, while teachers almost always pick the Democrat.
While Whitwell said he liked Trump’s tough talk on immigration, fellow senior Stephen Casper touted Clinton’s more progressive agenda.
“I’m confident she’ll win this election, so we can continue a type of social progress in this country,” Casper said. “Plus, (Trump) thinks that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese.”
But other students were less supportive for the two major-party candidates. Some simply weren’t convinced to vote for either.
“Trump is just plain unacceptable,” said senior Brady Corrigan. “Like, it’s really just a joke that he’s even running.”
Senior Emily Collins pointed to Clinton’s email debacle, which recently spurred an FBI investigation.
“Neither candidate is appealing to me,” she said. “It’s really just sad.”