High School Students Choose Hillary Clinton for President in Nationwide Mock Election

Nov. 6, 2016 — If the votes cast in a nationwide mock election by more than 74,000 students from nearly 160 high schools across the country are any indication, the next president of the United States will be Secretary Hillary Clinton. The results of the election were revealed Sunday evening, Nov. 6, during a two-hour-long webcast at votes2016.org.

The voters were all participants in this year’s VOTES project (Voting Opportunities for Teenagers in Every State), the nation’s largest mock election for high school students. The VOTES project was founded in 1988 by two teachers at Northfield Mount Hermon, a boarding school in Mount Hermon, Massachusetts. Over the past quarter century, the results of the mock election have correctly predicted the actual winner in six of the last seven U.S. presidential elections. The one “off” year was 2004, when incumbent President George W. Bush beat Senator John Kerry.

This year’s VOTES election had a record number of participating schools and students. As always, at least two high schools from every state participated in the project. The participation rate in the mock election topped 70 percent, well above the participation rate typically seen in actual elections.

Besides its size, one of the things that makes this mock election unique is that it simulates the Electoral College. This means the results of the popular vote from each state are converted into electoral votes. To win, a candidate has to win at least 270 electoral votes. In this VOTES election, Clinton won 332 electoral votes, while Donald Trump earned 206 electoral votes. 

Northfield Mount Hermon history teacher Jim Shea, a co-founder and director of the VOTES project, said, one of the most surprising things about this year’s election was how close the race was in many states. “In more than a dozen states, the race was decided by fewer than 100 votes, even though, in some cases, several thousand votes were cast in those states.”

Shea said he was also surprised by the strong showing of third-party candidates in almost all states. “In total, third-party candidates won more than 17 percent of the vote, which is higher than in any VOTES election since the days of Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. In at least three states, they played a major role as ‘spoiler’ candidates.”

The key to the election, said Shea, was the fact that Clinton won just about every swing state, including North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. The two states that returned perhaps the most surprising results were Georgia, which went for Clinton, and Wisconsin, which went for Trump.

Each of the schools that participated in VOTES held their elections on different days over the course of the last two weeks. The final tally, however, was not revealed until Sunday night during a gala election night “broadcast” from James Gymnasium on the Northfield Mount Hermon campus and streamed live over the web. Video of the event can be viewed at votes2016.org. The simulated broadcast included nearly all the bells and whistles of an actual TV election night broadcast. Student news anchors announced results on a state-by-state basis, and student reporters conducted interviews and provided political analysis. There was even music and a balloon drop.

In addition to casting ballots, students at many VOTES schools spent the weeks leading up to their school’s election day participating in events such as mock campaigns and mock debates, during which students took on the roles of Sen. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and third-party candidates. Some schools conducted workshops or brought in speakers to talk about various political issues. At least one school used the program as an opportunity to conduct an actual voter-registration drive for those students who were 18 or older.

“The VOTES project has proven to be a remarkably effective and fun way to teach our high school students about the electoral process and to engage them in a conversation about the important issues facing our country,” said Shea. “The hands-on mock election experience allows teenagers to be active participants in the political process rather than mere passive observers. What better way is there to teach them how to be thoughtful, engaged, and informed citizens in the future?”

For all its educational value, however, this year’s mock election suffered from some of the same dynamics that have characterized the whole election year.

“More than a few teachers at the various VOTES schools commented on how contentious and even divisive this election season was at their schools,” said Shea. “Some schools actually decided to back out of the mock election in the last month either because of how divisive and disruptive it had become or how divisive and disruptive they feared it would become. That never happened in the previous seven presidential elections.”

Read election details, including:

  • A summary showing popular and electoral vote results
  • A pie chart showing the presidential popular vote
  • A stacked bar graph showing the popular vote for each candidate by geographic region
  • The results of a poll on issues including undocumented immigrants in the US, fracking, taxes, background checks for gun purchases, and accepting refugees from war-torn areas

See the list of participating schools.

View the VOTES photo gallery.

Read more about VOTES 2016.