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For local students, election flap is history in the making

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Staying up until midnight Tuesday was not required for the students in Gary Poling's political science class at Robert C. Byrd High School.

But some chose to stay up late to watch the unusually close presidential election returns despite having to get up early for school the next morning.

"I went to bed around midnight," said David Romano, 17-year-old senior. "I popped back up to see if anything had happened, then went back to sleep."

And many of the students in Poling's class this semester have continued to closely follow )the unique contest since Tuesday night.

This year's election is one of the closest in history thanks to the still-undecided presidential race in Florida. But this is the first one the group of 17-year-old seniors has watched.

"This is the first election where we realized we will be affected by what happens," said Angela Pasternak.

One reason the Florida vote is causing so much controversy is because of disputed ballots from Palm Beach County, which Democrats maintain were confusing to voters.

Some of those who cast their ballots say they believe they might have accidentally voted for Pat Buchannon rather than Gore.

Those ballots, which were published before the election, have since been shown on television and Breianna Dotson, 17, a senior, disagrees that they are too confusing to use.

"There was an arrow pointing to (the proper circle to punch)," she said. "All you have to do is follow it over."

Casie Coughlin, however, said she is not sure if she would have marked the right choice.

"I think I would have messed up too," she said.

Some students suggested that one way to resolve the disputed votes issue is for Palm Beach County to conduct another election. Crystal Lewis, however, does not like that idea.

"But look at the media coverage since (Tuesday)," she said. "That might make some people change the way they voted."

And doing so might start a trend that would not be good for our democratic process, said Toni Rose Buffey.

"If you do it for them, you would have to do it for everyone," she said.

Poling's class has followed the campaign since the first of the school year. They gathered information about the candidates mostly through the Internet, which they believe will play an even bigger role in future elections.

D.J. Casto said the Internet made it easier to get the facts about each candidate. That could make future voters like him more informed than those in the past have been, he said.

The students said they planned to keep their eyes on the news Thursday evening to see the outcome of the Florida recount. But none said they believed the situation would be resolved any time soon.

" I think this is something we'll be talking about for a long time to come," Pasternak said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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