Mocking The Vote

Rockingham County Students Get Primer On Election Rules

Posted: September 3, 2014

Rockingham County Registrar Lisa Gooden (right) looks over the voter registration application that 18-year-old Turner Ashby senior Corey Norman filled out during her visit to Bill Kyger’s honors government class Tuesday morning. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Rockingham County Voter Registrar Lisa Gooden holds up an election ballot Tuesday during a government class at Turner Ashby High, explaining the common mistakes voters make.

HARRISONBURG — Elections have consequences, but so does how one fills out paperwork involved in the whole process.

Having opinions on big issues is all well and good. They can go to waste, however, if you’re unable to fully fill in a bubble, write legibly or pick the right number of candidates, not to mention if you try to pull a fast one on officials and register in multiple locations.

 Before a mock election at Turner Ashby High School on Tuesday, Rockingham County Registrar Lisa Gooden advised students in Bill Kyger’s government class of common mistakes voters make.

They start with the application to register to vote — illegible handwriting, for example — and pick up on Election Day itself, she said.

With ballots, voters often do not completely fill out the bubble next to a candidate’s name, choose too many for a particular office — that’s an “over vote,” which can lead to having to vote all over again — or endorse silly write-in candidates, such as Mickey Mouse.

“If you’re so distraught [about your options], vote for yourself,” Gooden said. “Don’t waste it on a fictitious character.”

These mistakes are all assuming you don’t commit something far more egregious like voter fraud by registering in two states, which Kyger likens to committing perjury.

“It would not be a good thing to register to vote in Rockingham County and go to some other state and do the same thing,” Gooden said.

Year-Round School?

All warnings aside, students on Tuesday didn’t have to worry about fraud or over voting when faced with a few ballot questions.

At issue in the mock election were four topics: Repealing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage; year-round school; starting the school day later; and giving seniors a one-hour block during the day to leave campus.

Kyger, who serves on the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors, suggested the last question after learning that Western Albemarle High School allows its seniors to leave.

TA senior Maria Shickel, 17, supports the idea, and promises she wouldn’t abuse the privilege.

“Oh, I’ll be back. I’ll get it to go,” she said of grabbing lunch off campus. “I have too much of a guilty conscience [to break rules].”

Senior Sidney Hamann, 17, was less enthusiastic about extending school to 12 months, even with dedicated weekly breaks in October and April and three weeks off in December.

“I have too many family [vacations] I take throughout the year, and that would be a lot of school to make up,” she said. “And that’s just a lot of school.”

Gooden will be back at TA today and then visit Broadway High School on Thursday and Friday. She’s already been to Spotswood and East Rockingham high schools.

Beyond lessons on the voting process, she shares the message of never giving up on your dreams, citing a 17-year-old West Virginia girl who won the Republican nomination for House of Delegates earlier this year.

“Don’t ever feel like you’re too young to do something you aspire to do,” said Gooden, whose own son, Joshua, is believed to have been the youngest person elected to Elkton Town Council just before his 19th birthday in 2012.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or

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