MOUNT WASHINGTON - Old Mill Elementary students recently received a valuable education in American civics.
Twenty days before the general election, Old Mill students were given the opportunity to exercise a privilege most Americans take for granted.
Students were allowed to choose which of the two major party's candidates they wanted to be elected president during a school-wide mock election.
OMES instructional assistant Julie Foster, who coordinated the mock election with second-grade teacher Meagan Moremen, said she felt it was a valuable exercise, especially given that voter turnout has been so low across the U.S.
Foster said the idea behind the mock election was to get kids thinking about voting and its importance in a democratic society.
"This mock election is extremely important...It helps them realize they're America's youngest citizens," Foster said. "We tell the kids that they need to vote, and they need to be informed, and that maybe one day they could be president."
Foster said the hope was that students would not only begin to grasp the concepts of voting, of being engaged in the electorate and of being informed, but that they would take these lessons home to families that may not exercise American citizenship.
Before students cast their ballots for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in their homeroom classes, Bullitt County Clerk Kevin Mooney addressed a school-wide assembly.
Mooney spoke extensively on the voting process and his role in managing elections as clerk.
Specifically, Mooney shared how his office prepares for elections, how the county is divided into precincts, how secure ballot boxes get from precincts to the clerk's office after the polls close and everything in between.
Mooney's visit and the mock election culminated the lessons teachers shared with their students regarding the rights and duties of citizenship.
Teachers discussed a wide range of topics on the subject from the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties to the U.S. Constitution.
Foster said many teachers also incorporated fun exercises like, "If you were president which issues would you run on?" giving students the chance to put themselves in the candidates' shoes.
Patricia Stevens said that while she discusses citizenship with her students throughout the year, she used the mock election to share the basic concepts of voting with her kindergartners.
Most important, Stevens shared that voting gives Americans a say in how they want their communities, their states and their country run, and that all American citizens have the right to vote (although voting rights can vary depending on state and federal law).
Like other OMES teachers, Stevens also encouraged her students to talk with their parents about who they planned to vote for in the mock election, explaining that many voters are influenced by their parents or friends.
Five-year-old Jackson Binkley said he meant to speak with his parents, but he forgot, so he voted for "Morack" Obama because he remembered seeing him on television.
Asked why he voted for Obama, Binkley said, "because I wanted to."
Binkley said he learned a lot about voting from Mooney and Stevens, like how Americans must be at least 18 to vote.
Second graders Asa Bond, Carly Snellen and Will Brangers said they have learned a great deal about citizenship, but also American government.
Bond wouldn't say who he voted for in the mock election, but he said he learned he didn't have to tell anyone because U.S. elections are determined by secret ballot, which is meant to protect voters from being bribed or intimidated to vote a certain way.
Snellen also wouldn't say who she voted for, but said she said her parents influenced her decision, adding that she chose the candidate she thought would be the best president.
Asked what about each of the candidates stuck out in her mind, Snellen said she remembered learning that Obama liked basketball and Romney's father ran for president (former Michigan Gov. George Romney ran for president in 1968).
Snellen said it's important to vote because, "If you don't vote and your candidate doesn't win it's partly your fault."
Brangers didn't mind sharing who he voted for.
"I voted for Mitt Romney," he said.
The second grader also didn't mind saying what he enjoyed learning about most was how the U.S. government is broken into three separate branches.
What makes America so special, he said, is that it's a free country.
With all the votes counted, President Obama narrowly beat Gov. Romney 187 to 154.