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franklin county times

County students learn political process at mock convention

Laster, Moss, Nolen and Guinn meet with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill during the convention.
Laster, Moss, Nolen and Guinn meet with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill during the convention.

By Bart Moss for the FCT

Five Franklin County students – three from Tharptown and two from Russellville – recently attended the state Student Mock Convention at the American Village in Montevallo. The convention aimed to help prepare students to conduct a statewide student mock election in October, where students from all over the state of Alabama will cast ballots for president of the United States.

The students who attended the mock convention from Tharptown were rising eighth graders Jaden Laster, Hayden Moss and Winston Nolen. Students attending from Russellville were rising eighth grader Avery Guinn and rising junior Daniel Balding.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill spearheaded the two-day event to help increase student awareness of the political process and increase voter participation.

“One of the things we’ve focused on since I took office early last year is increasing voter awareness and making it easier for Alabamians to participate in the electoral process,” said Merrill. “We have been making great strides through voter registration drives all over the state of Alabama and making it easier to register to vote online.”

Merrill said he sees the student mock convention and election as one more step in a long-term process.

“If we can get students engaged in the electoral process at an early age, maybe they will see the excitement and value in voting,” said Merrill.

The students heard from several speakers, including Merrill, who spoke about freedom, liberty and the right to vote. They created posters encouraging voter participation and had their pictures taken in a replica of the Oval Office. The final event of the convention was to listen to speakers on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton before the students cast secret ballots.

“It was a fun event,” said Moss. “We got to participate in a quiz show on American government hosted by King George III, and we got to vote for president.”

“It was great to hear the different speakers and the different points of view,” said Laster.

Before the final votes were tallied and announced, the students heard from one final special guest, Elliot Spillers, the first black president of the University of Alabama Student Government Association. Spillers is also the first non-fraternity, non-machine UA president since John Merrill.

When the final votes were counted, Alabama students had selected Trump for president.