A teacher holds up I voted stickers while another teacher holds ballots. Both teachers are wearing masks due to Covid-19. They are in the school hallway six feet apart.

Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 8:11 am

The U.S. Government & Politics semester-long course at MHS is trying something new this school year.

The course is holding its inaugural mail-in ballot election. Approximately 300 ballots with voter registration instructions and return envelopes were mailed to the primary addresses of each USGP student for the fall 2020 semester this week, MHS social studies teacher Andrew Hartman said.

The USGP legislative semester is up and running virtually and has just entered the process of churning out legislation, Hartman said. This is the ninth year the course has offered a legislative session. Hartman noted that virtual instruction has included some "bumps in the road'' but thus far students have participated in multiple full-on virtual debates, declared their party affiliation, and begun the process of forming bill groups to research, write, and advocate for  solutions to real-world problems.

"I was surprised that this course has transferred so well to the virtual format. When students and student voices are at the center of any curriculum I guess it just works,'' veteran USGP teacher Cy Weaver said. "They are incredibly resilient intellectuals who see the value of seizing this moment in time to address issues they are passionate about."

A key component to this course is using the simulation of politics, society, government, and the legislative process as "teachable moments" to America's actual system so that students leave being more likely to successfully function in their role as a citizen in our collective democracy, Hartman said.

With the 2020 presidential election less than two weeks away, Hartman said students will be participating in a mock election for both the president of the United States and the President of the 17th legislative semester. How will the vote take place? Mail-in ballots.

Approximately 300 students have been mailed envelopes that contain a ballot that is identical to the ballot for the 2nd congressional district of Wisconsin along with directions to virtually register and submit their student ID as is law in the state of Wisconsin. Additionally, a stamped and addressed return envelope has been provided for students to mail back their ballots to the high school in order to be counted and tallied for the 2020 election by their elected members of the Rules Committee, which is a student body that  replicates the congressional rules committee in the House of Representatives.

"It is an opportunity to demonstrate and practice the actual process of being an informed citizen,'' USGP teacher Jeff Hayward noted when asked why he is excited about the mail-in ballot election this year. "This is what I do. This is what we have to do during a pandemic to have our voices heard and to use the power that is our vote. It is also a great way to just remind kids that we are here. Here is physical proof that life is still operating at as normal a level as possible."