To students, Election Day is merely a day off from school. Another 24 hours to finish math homework or cram for a history test, but not to choose who gets to run our city. But this year, within the walls of Stuyvesant High School, students’ opinions were counted.
In the week before the election, Social Studies teachers distributed ballots to everyone in class. Students were to fill out who their vote would have gone to for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate. The results were announced during third period on Wednesday, November 4.
In the New York City Elections, Mayor Michael Bloomberg won a third term in office by a slim margin of five percent of the vote. On average, he won only 8 more votes than Democratic candidate William C. Thompson at each polling site, according to the Daily News. However, in the school election Bloomberg won with 1431 votes, or 57.08 percent, compared to Thompson’s 36.10 percent.
The mayoral election was of particular interest this year because of Bloomberg’s controversial decision to run for a third term, which led to the abolition of New York City’s term limits. Some voters opposed his candidacy on principle.
“[Bloomberg] said before that he wouldn’t change term limits, and he thought it was disgusting, so I don’t like it that he’s changing his entire view on it,” junior Jimmy Cheung said.
On the other hand, some felt that Bloomberg was justified in overturning term limits. “Bloomberg’s third term was justified because in an economic crisis, New York needs a mayor with a clean track record for improvement, experience, and knowledge on how to run with an economic state of mind,” senior Taha Ahsin said. “Although democratic principles are fine to be valued and all, in time of need, there needs to be a limit as to how far we will set them in stone.”
When asked about their decisions, students seemed to be influenced by many different factors. “I voted for Thompson because I believe that Bloomberg’s button-down corporate efficiency went out of style quickly. Thompson would have brought a more intimate feel to the office, something I feel is valuable in our system of government,” junior Ady Vijay said.
Those who voted for Bloomberg, however, argued that he has done his job successfully for the past two terms. “Although I didn’t put as much thought into my decisions for the other city-wide positions, I felt most strongly about choosing Bloomberg for mayor. I like what he has done for the city in the past couple of years, and believe that he has proven his reliability,” sophomore Grant Weisberg said.
But many students were not aware of the backgrounds and platforms of the candidates, especially for the Public Advocate and Comptroller elections. “Although some students taking government classes were a little more knowledgeable, on the whole, students just don’t have a stake in local politics or are just not fed information on their local politicians,” Ahsin said. “When it came time to fill out their ballots, students voted based on arbitrary factors, such as the education, the party, or even the previous job of the candidate.”
Students who didn’t know enough about a candidate to make a decision often voted based on party affiliation. “I wasn’t familiar with many of the candidates, and although they might not admit it, I doubt most Stuyvesant students were either,” junior Carolyn Dean-Wolf said. “However, being a Democrat, I felt safe in voting for the Democratic candidates.”
Both the New York City and Stuyvesant elections reinforce this point, with John Liu winning 76 percent of New York City votes and 83.36 percent of Stuyvesant votes.
Some students didn’t treat the election seriously at all. “Even though we’re given these ballots in school to fill out, it’s hard for most of us to take them seriously, since it won’t affect our lives in anyway. For example, in history, half of my class jokingly “voted” for our history teacher, writing in her name on the ballot. It’s not an accurate description of what the voting process is like when we’re older, since as adults, we’re more likely to think through the choice we make, and in what way it will affect us,” junior Priscilla Odinmah said.
Though the results of the mock election were somewhat questionable, the election gave students a chance to participate in a process from which they are normally excluded.
“I think it’s a good idea to have the mock elections in school because people should get used to voting. It’s an important part of being a citizen,” junior Kevin Jin said.