WESTBOROUGH, Mass. ‒ There was nothing new Tuesday in Hastings Elementary School serving as a Westborough polling place, but the age of the voters was.
About 100 Hastings third-graders took part in a nationwide mock election, joining about 6 million other students in choosing a president.
"The kids are able to get a simulation of what it's actually like," Principal Leigh Becker said. "We wanted them to experience what is to come and vote, just like their parents."
The elections, run by Studies Weekly, have correctly predicted the past two presidential elections. This year's was the third installment of the mock voting by students in grades K-6,
The program was meant to be completed on Oct. 30, but it was extended to Friday, Nov. 2, due to Hurricane Sandy. As of Thursday night, Barack Obama was leading Mitt Romney 568,413 to 399,309 in the popular vote and 479 to 59 in electoral votes.
Third-grade teacher Vicki Walsh said she is always amazed at how knowledgeable her students are about what's going on in the world and the election.
"It's not even me giving them the information most of the time," she said, noting that every year her students write a letter to the president. "I'm very excited about this — it's great."
Issues that were touted as important by voters on Tuesday included "lower taxes," "help the environment" and "ending the war."
"They're very in-tune with what's going on," Walsh said.
The voters came down by class, and checked in with principal Leigh Becker, who asked them for their names with the most serious face she could muster, considering she knew every one of them. There were roughly 100 voters spread between the five classes.
"I know your name, I'm just asking because that's how your parents do it," she said, responding to several students' quizzical expressions at the question.
"You have to check in so I can make sure you're a registered voter here at Hastings."
After the check-in, voters were led by Betsy Stechler to one of the "voting booths," set up on computers with blinders to mimic the real thing. After they cast a vote by clicking a large picture of one the candidates, Stechler would give the pupils an "I Voted Today" sticker.
Becker said she doesn't think most students realize how many kids are actually participating in the mock election.
"Until they see that map that shows all the voting from all across the country, I don't think they're even thinking about that," Becker said. She added that she would consider expanding to more grades in the future. "The third grade already had [the election] as part of the curriculum, so this was perfect. "