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DPS high-schoolers pick Sanders, push for board representation in mock election

Jun 7, 2016

The results are in, and Bernie Sanders is the winner -- of a mock election that 5,139 Detroit Public Schools students on 22 high-school campuses participated in on May 19. 

The Vermont senator took 58.12% of the Democratic vote and received 2,844 votes overall, according to a DPS release, beating out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the next-highest vote-getter, by a comfortable margin. Clinton received 1,857 votes.

As voters in Michigan's presidential primary election did in March, students voting in the mock presidential primaries chose either Democratic or Republican ballots.

"They had an actual ballot that an actual voter would receive, so it was set up in the same format," said Lee Wright, an instructional specialist in the DPS social studies department, who helped set up the mock election.

From the results, many Republicans seemed to struggle to find an appealing candidate, with 30.32% choosing the "Republican -- Uncommitted" option on their ballots. Just 2.13% of Democratic voters chose their ticket's uncommitted option.

Among the Republican voters who did pick a candidate, Texas Senator Ted Cruz eked out a win against Detroit native and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, besting him by a tally of 549 to 539 votes, neither of which was enough to earn 20% of the overall Republican vote. Donald Trump, who has since become the last remaining Republican candidate and the GOP's presumptive nominee, earned slightly over 200 votes.

A measure to add an annual building maintenance inspection for all schools passed overwhelmingly, with 92.17% of students voting in favor. Another measure to add representation from the DPS student body to the district's school board also passed comfortably with 87.54% of the vote.

"I think the biggest thing out of all this is that students need to feel their voices heard," Wright said. "Those proposals were generated by a team of what we call a team leadership institute. It's kind of like a student council for all the high schools. Those representatives came together with the Department of Elections, and that's why you see things like the building maintenance requirement on the ballot."

DPS funding is currently in limbo, as the State House, State Senate and governor's office have failed to pass a comprehensive funding package that would provide over $400 million to run the new district and pay off existing debt. 

When the district regains local control and moves forward with formulating a more specific structure and system of government, Wright said, it will be able to take into account students' desire for representation.