Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann takes questions from students Tuesday at Madison Station.
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann takes questions from students Tuesday at Madison Station.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann gave a presentation to 174 Madison Station fifth graders Tuesday about the importance of civic responsibility, specifically voting as part of their ongoing Promote the Vote program.

Secretary Hosemann had a hard act to follow. Principal Martha Hanna had just announced a teacher dunking booth and catered pizza for the school’s upcoming Fall Fest which was met with raucous applause, but the seasoned statesman kept the room rapt for about 15 minutes while he introduced his program and gave a brief civics lesson involving the three branches of government and the importance of elections.

“Most of the biggest decisions made about our country are made every evening at the dinner table,” Hosemann told a group of teachers and administrators after the event. “By reaching these kids they go home and ask their parents who they are voting for and why and they get a better understanding of the system and you also remind their parents to get out and vote.”

He also told the students about the 3,200 soldiers he recently visited overseas in Kuwait, some from Madison County, he visited with and talked to about voting remotely.

"If anyone saw what they were going through over there fighting for our freedom to vote over here, not a single person would not vote this election," Hosemann said.

The pinnacle PTV event is a mock election for both U.S. Senate races and the U.S. House race pertinent to each school’s district, which will be held between Oct. 1-26 of this year.  A downloadable ballot was made available to participating schools on October 1. Hosemann said they have more than 200 schools participating in some part of the contest.

He described the three branches of government as three legs of a three-legged stool.

“It needs all three legs to stand,” Hosemann said.

He said that in Mississippi, citizens vote for who occupies those offices.

During a question period, one student asked what would happen if nobody voted.

“That's a very good question,” Hosemann said. “If nobody voted then no positions would be filled. There would be no taxes, no schools, no army, no police or firefighters. It would be chaos.”

This year’s program, which will include a mock election and art and essay contests, asks students to contemplate how they may “Make a Difference in Mississippi” by voting and otherwise getting involved in their communities.  

“We are seeing historically low turnout at the ballot box, so it is more important than ever to teach our children about the importance of civic engagement and how every vote counts,” Hosemann said. “Participating in PTV is a fun, manageable way for busy teachers to talk about our elections process in the classroom.”

For the first time in PTV’s decades-long history, Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Education arm will partner with the Agency to encourage school, teacher, and student participation.

“The PTV initiative fits in well with MPB’s mission, which is to make Mississippi better,” said MPB’s Executive Director Ronnie Agnew. “Secretary Hosemann’s office and MPB share the belief that we have a responsibility to encourage citizens to exercise their right to vote, and there is no better place to start than with our children. MPB will use the power of its statewide broadcasting radio and television infrastructure to assist the Secretary of State’s Office in engaging, educating and informing the children we hope to reach with this much-needed program.” 

Once students vote for their candidates using the mock ballot, teachers or administrators will tally and transmit their classroom or school vote totals by e-mail by 5 p.m. on October 26. Results of the Promote the Vote mock election will be available in November.

Aside from the mock election, PTV offers art and essay contests, available for students in grades K-12 and 6-12, respectively. The art contest, called “Colors of My Community,” prompts entrants to pretend they are an artist commissioned to draw a mural on a building in their hometown representing the place and people.  

“This can be whatever you want it to be to represent your community. Your dream will be different from my dream,” Hosemann told the kids.

The essay contest, called “We Have Business to Do!,” calls on students to focus on the business economy in the local community by using the Secretary of State’s Y’all Business website, www.yallbusiness.sos.ms.gov, or other resources. 

 Art and essay entries will be accepted by the Secretary of State’s Office until December 7, of this year. Winners will receive an award from local banks and be eligible to participate in a ceremony in February 2019 at the Mississippi State Capitol.  

Deadlines, rules for participation in the mock election and contests, easy-to-implement ideas for how to run a fun and successful mock election in the classroom, congressional district maps, elected officials worksheets, and contest entry forms, among other information and other PTV materials are available at sos.ms.gov/PTV.