Owasso fifth through seventh grade students from the Rejoice Christian School Summer Camp visited the Rogers County Election Board Wednesday for an in-depth lesson in government and civic responsibility.
“You’re going to know more about how the government functions than most of your parents and teachers when you leave here today,” promised Julie Dermody, secretary of the Rogers County Election Board.
The visit included a lesson on the how are nation was formed and the various levels of government and voting districts that exist today; a mock election where some of the students acted as precinct workers; and a tour of the Rogers County Courthouse including visits to the planning commission, county commissioners, treasurer and assessors’ offices to learn what each of those offices do.
Some of the fun facts the students learned were that the US government is a Constitutional Republic not a Democracy, why Oklahoma’s second congressional district (which includes Rogers County) is called “Little Dixie”, that every county in the entire nation has three commissioners, how the electoral college works and why the simple act of voting is our most important civil liberty.
“Your vote is your voice,” Dermody said, taking time to especially encourage young ladies to exercise the freedoms for which their great-great-great grandmothers fought. Dermody discussed how in Owasso a few years ago, only 8 percent of the population voted to raise taxes for everybody and how in the 2016 general election, less than half of Rogers County citizens eligible to vote turned out.
“Forty-seven percent is a high number for us, but if you all got 47 percent on a test you would fail,” Dermody said.
Dermody explained how registered voters who don’t vote for five years lose their registration status.
“Once you get registered to vote, you have to stay that way,” Dermody said.
After explaining the election process she had the children participate in a mock election, voting for things like their favorite summer treat and favorite Oklahoma symbol.
Two students volunteered as precinct workers and learned how to operate the ballot counting machines, although they were much younger than Dermody’s average precinct worker, around 78 years old.
One student looked down at her ballot and then raised her hand to ask, “Is there an right or wrong answer?”
“When we vote, there is no right or wrong answer,” Dermody said. “You decide based on what you think is the right choice.”
Dermody demonstrated to the students how disabled people or people with poor literacy can still vote in secret with the ATI system connected to the voting machines.
Dermody also showed them where they paper ballots are locked in a cage that only the county sheriff has access to in case a recount is called.
In 2012, Dermody said, a recount was called in Rogers County, and four county election board employees sat down and counted more than 20,000 ballots by hand.
There are several resources online to learn more about the US government and how it works. Dermody pointed the students and teachers to her personal favorite, National Center for Constitutional Studies, nccs.net.