“Democracy needs people to be in the habit of thinking about the merits of the other view, and it’s truly a habit. It’s a way of behaving. It’s not the kind of thing that you can just never do and then suddenly do with ease. Citizens in a democracy need to practice these skills, just like reading or playing an instrument. To do it well, you have to do it all the time.” – Constitutional Law Professor Richard Primus, University of Michigan (from ” A Lesson in Democracy for 9-Year-Olds” The Atlantic, 11/4/2016).
On November 6, 2018, as we do every year on Election Day, USL students spent the day focused on exit polling. We conducted polls for two statewide races (Governor/Lt. Governor & Attorney General), U.S. House of Representatives District 1, Charleston County School Board, and a proposed amendment to the state Constitution regarding the Superintendent of Education. Each student interviewed voters at two precincts in two different municipalities, and USL visited 28 total voting sites.
Students then compiled the information and predicted the outcomes using our exit poll results.
The Post & Courier featured our Charleston County exit poll results in an article posted to their website a few hours after the polls closed, and ABC News 4 also highlighted the lessons our students learn:
Overview: University School, serving grades 3-12, is a school that explores elections and the democratic process, and this means hearing from different candidates, learning about different parties, and exploring issues of governance and civics. This is an annual experience, and it culminates in our yearly exit polling project, and this entails students going to precincts on Election Day to poll voters on their choices. We then return to campus that day and make informed predictions of the outcomes of the races. It is a great learning activity about mathematics, statistics, and the democratic process for us all. Doing it yearly also enables students to see first-hand the ebb and flow of turnout rates for the different types of elections, etc., and it helps to develop students who will be active participants in the civic arena.
2018 Preparation: Our students watch the news every morning, and we strive to keep them apprised of the issues of the day. University School hosted guest speakers representing many political parties, as well as several focused on voting and Constitutional rights, to better understand a variety of perspectives and platforms.
Katie Arrington, Republican Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives District #1
Jay Bender, Legal Counsel to the South Carolina Press Association
Melissa Couture, Libertarian Candidate for S.C. House #114
Shayna Howell, League of Women Voters
Gregg Jocoy, Green Party chapter leader in upstate South Carolina
JA Moore, Democratic Candidate for S.C. House #15
Joe Riley, Former City of Charleston Mayor
Joan Zaleski, League of Women Voters
Sharing Our Results: We like to use our results to predict the outcome. However, the students also have learned that exit polls can affect voter behavior if they are released before the end of voting. Therefore, our results are compiled but not released to our community and beyond until after the polls close.
(4) School Board – Charleston County – East Cooper (2 winners)
Coats wins with 44.6%
Mack wins with 35.2%