MAYVILLE - A total of 5,686 students from 12 school districts and one home-school group participated in the Chautauqua County Board of Elections 2012 Mock Presidential Elections. Democratic President Barack Obama won the election, garnering 51 percent of the vote over Republican Mitt Romney with 42 percent of the total votes cast, according to Chautauqua County Election Commissioners Norman P. Green and Brian C. Abram.
In partnership with the nonpartisan Chautauqua County League of Women Voters, the mock elections were conducted at Forestville Middle and High School, Maple Grove High School, Clymer High School, Dunkirk High School, Falconer High School, Southwestern High School, Sherman High School, Jamestown High School and Jefferson Middle School, Cassadaga Valley Middle and High School, Frewsburg High School and Elementary School, Fredonia Middle School and Elementary School, Westfield High School, and a 50 students from Jamestown LEAH home-school group. All county schools were offered the opportunity to participate in the mock presidential election and vote using the county's paper ballot optical scan voting machines. The Lakewood Rotary club supplemented the League of Women Voter's workers in southern Chautauqua County. Anthony Popielarz, coordinator of training for the board of elections, represented the Board of Elections at the schools.
According to Green and Abram, the countywide totals for the mock election broke out Obama, 2921; Romney, 2363; Jill Stein, Green Party, 103; Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party, 97; Peta Lindsay, Socialism and Liberation Party, 39; Virgil Goode, Constitution Party, 27; and various write-in candidates garnered 136 votes. School districts favoring Obama were Forestville, Dunkirk, Jamestown, Westfield and Fredonia. Romney captured Bemus Point, Clymer, Falconer, Southwestern, Sherman, Cassadaga Valley, Frewsburg and the Jamestown LEAH home-school group.
"We are the very first Board of Elections in New York State to offer this service to our schools," said Abram. "We were able to do this because voting machine and ballot printing costs have dramatically decreased with the advent of optical scan balloting coupled with the county's in-house ballot printing. The free election assistance labor provided by the League of Women Voters and the Lakewood Rotary Club was also a big help in keeping costs at a minimum."
"As just one of five counties out of 62 in New York State," added Green, "we are able to print ballots for 15 cents each compared to pricing of 57 cents per ballot that 57 other counties in New York are currently paying to outside vendors. Chautauqua County's ballots look and work like any other ballot in New York, only our taxpayers will be paying nearly $60,000 less this year than what county taxpayers would have paid to outside contract printers.
"Along with the fact that the county's optical scanner is programmed in house on a data disc compared to the labor intensive programming of the old lever voting machine; doing mock elections for county schools is a piece of cake," Green concluded.
The Board of Elections is required by state law to do voter outreach programs and the school visitation for mock presidential voting is part of the county's compliance. Personnel to assist the student voters was provided at no charge by the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters, with assistance from the Lakewood Rotary.
"The League of Women Voters welcomes the Board of Elections' effort to engage students in the political process through a mock election for president. We were happy to have partnered with the Board to make it happen," said Minda Rae Amiran, League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County's voter service chair.