ALAMEDA -- Many schools were polling sites for adults on Election Day, but at Wood Middle School, it was the students who lined up to cast their votes for either President Barack Obama or Gov. Mitt Romney.
Long queues of students intrepidly held forth on their lunches outside the cafeteria, waiting until they made it to their teachers' tables set up outdoors. Adorned with red, white and blue bows, the tables held the ballots the 343 young voters had signed up for in history and other classes during the past two weeks. Originally, the roster had 452 sign-ups for the election.
The event was optional, but at least one voter was unclear on the concept that this was a practice run for adulthood. When he learned his vote wouldn't be counted among those of the older generation, he frowned and said, "Can I go to lunch?"
Others, who perhaps had fortified themselves with a snack, hung in there. When their turns came, they learned how to fill in the line in the ballot to pick their president. And they also learned not to try to peek or get too close to the person who was voting.
"I told them to back up because it's a private vote," said Wood counselor Kai Dwyer, who drove the campaign for the mock election.
"This is a major part of history and it's important that students are connected to the world," she said. "We're raising citizens here. They're not fools. They watch TV. They know what's going on. They've been really excited about
Sixth-grader Daniel Keep was among a number of students who said they watched the presidential debates at home. Though he had made his choice, he wasn't convinced exactly how or how much difference the winner would make for the country's future.
"It will make some difference, though," he said tentatively.
Eighth-graders Joshua Yoon and Dante Parcon agreed that the voting was interesting, but neither had a particularly strong feeling about either candidate. But Yoon learned a lesson on people's political passions.
"A lot of people have different opinions and most of them stay calm when they talk," he said. "But some people are a little verbally abusive."
Asked if her vote was based on her parents' choice, seventh-grader Quynh Tran thought for a moment and said, "Not really."
When the tally was counted up that evening, it showed 324 votes for President Obama and 19votes for Mitt Romney.
Dwyer, who is also an anti-bullying counselor at Wood, said of the mock election: "This is about democracy. We want them to remember this when they are 18."
She added that she'd like for every school on the Island to hold mock elections.