The VOTES Project at Severn: Election 2016
by Charlie Olmert '17
This election season has perhaps been the most compelling in modern history. This week, the election season will be descending upon Severn School itself. Through a project called V.O.T.E.S., or Voting Opportunities for Teenagers in Every State, Severn will be holding a mock election among students on Tuesday, November 1st. The project was created by Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. Since 1988, the VOTES project has correctly predicted the eventual President six out of seven times. Over 130 schools from across the country (and at least two from each state) cast ballots as part of the project. Severn, Key School, and McDonogh will be representing Maryland this year. At Severn, the polls will be open from 7:30 to 3:30. In the morning and afternoon, polling will be in front of the school; during lunches, it will be in the cafeteria; for the first and last two periods of the day, it will be in the library. Every vote matters in this project, so be sure to get out and vote.
In terms of the “actual” election, this race has been extremely hard to predict, with two historically disliked major party candidates. However, things do appear to be tightening in this homestretch. FiveThirtyEight, a nonpartisan statistics website, has dropped its odds of a Clinton presidency to 78.9%, down from her high of 88.1% shortly before the third debate. While a Trump win, currently at a 21.1% chance, is unlikely, it is certainly not out of reach. To put that number in context, rolling a six with a die has a 16.7% chance, while flipping two heads in a row with a coin has a 25% chance. Not probable, but not impossible by any means.
While Maryland is sticking to its Democratic leanings (the state has not pledged its electors for a GOP nominee since 1988), many states are surprisingly entering the “toss-up” category this year. The New York Times has recently moved both Arizona and Georgia into toss-up territory in their projections. Those two states have only voted Democratic a combined four times since 1964. Polls have even shown tight races in Texas and Alaska! Meanwhile, independent conservative Evan McMullin is quickly moving up the polls in his home state of Utah, another traditionally red state.
Many of these changing trends in traditionally GOP states point to a Clinton landslide, but a few non-numeric pointers tell a different story. On any news channel, one will hear Trump surrogates talk about his record crowds and enthusiasm. Additionally, they speak of the “hidden” Trump vote, or rural whites who do not normally vote who have been awoken by the Trump campaign. While excitement does not necessarily translate to actual votes (see the Bernie Sanders primary campaign), there is something to be said for the passion of Trump voters.
For most high school students, this election has been our introduction to politics. While the election has turned some people off, the heated arguments taking place on national television can be heard taking place just as fervently in the halls of Severn as well. This is why the VOTES project is such an exciting opportunity for our community. Only a handful of seniors can vote in the actual election, but all of us can make our voices heard through VOTES. Be sure to read up on the election in the coming days and be an informed voter come Tuesday!