From Oct. 24-31, Avon Grove School District students cast their vote for this presidential election as part of the Kids Voting-Chester County program in area schools.Students from Penn London Elementary cast their vote for president/vice president from Oct. 24-30 using Survey Monkey, an online survey tool, and Avon Grove Intermediate School students voted on Oct. 27 and 28, while students at Fred S. Engle Middle School cast their votes for president/vice president on the school's "Election Day" on Oct.

30. Avon Grove High School students voted from Oct. 27-31, after researching the candidates and their stances on important issues like the economy and the environment.

All students learned about democracy as part of the Kids Voting USA program, which is a nationwide learning program that encourages students to become politically involved and educated, and they completed assignments and engaged in discussion to make an informed decision.

PLE librarian Kim Belknap said this is the third presidential election Penn London has participated in, but she tries to engage children in some type of election every year, including voting for the name of a stuffed animal.

Belknap said she was surprised how many students recognized the candidates.

"Even the very youngest children could identify photographs of Barack Obama and John McCain before we even began to discuss them," she said. "I did not find that to be the case in previous elections."

Belknap added that most children vote according to what their parents discuss at home.

"In fact, student mock elections have been amazingly accurate in predicting future presidents since the 1940s," she said.

There is no requirement for schools to participate in the Kids Voting USA program. Belknap said she decided to join the program by the Pennsylvania Department of State this year because she was able to use a survey she created herself on Surveymonkey.com.

"Four years ago, the Kids Voting USA computerized voting system required that pass words be entered ahead of time for each child, and it was very time-consuming," she said. "They also wanted all voting to occur on the dame day."

She added that the PA Dept. of State only required that total votes be recorded on its Web site by Oct. 30, so it was up to her what method they wished to use.

All children in kindergarten through second grade learned about the presidential candidates, including third party candidates and statewide candidates, and the different political parties.

The final vote counts for PLE students was 515 votes for Barack Obama, 460 votes for John McCain, 15 votes for Ralph Nader and 23 votes for Bob Barr, according to Lisa McVey, AGSD communications and community relations liaison.

"I'm hoping that they had a positive first [voting] experience and will be enthusiastic about actually voting after the age of 18. By practicing the voting experience while young, we wish them to carry voting behavior into their adult life," said Belknap.

Engle Middle School eighth-grader Justin Traino casts his vote via computer during the school's Election Day, held on Oct. 30.

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