Students in two Cranston Public Schools were treated to visits from local officials during this election season. Former Attorney General Patrick Lynch visited Park View Middle School last Thursday and Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis visited the fifth grades at Oak Lawn Elementary School on Friday.
Both men had the same message for their audiences: get out and vote.
Although the students are not old enough themselves to vote, both Lynch and Mollis were hoping to drive that message home, literally, with the intent that the students would spread the word at home and beyond about the importance of voting.
"It's great to see students at your age getting involved in the election process. You wouldn't believe how many 18 to 20-year-olds don't vote," Mollis said. "Voting is a way of actually being able to hire and fire those in government. Your votes actually count.”
Both sets of students were participating in mock elections and had been studying the electoral process, in preparation for Election Day on Tuesday.
Lynch urged the students to spread the word about voting at home.
"Go home and tell any adult to go out and vote. Tell your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, bus drivers, your teachers and administrators to vote," Lynch said. "Tell them to shake off their disgust with all of the phone calls and commercials and get out and vote."
"This is a difficult time for people like you, your parents, teachers and other adults. People get tired of it and a lot of people say it's just too much," he said.
Both Mollis and Lynch let the students know that every vote counts, even when someone thinks that their own vote wouldn't make a difference in an election.
"I've seen elections where one vote makes the difference. In my second election, I won by just 59 votes," Mollis said.
Lynch expressed his concern for the amount of money being spent during this election season.
"This is really ugly; I've never seen something like this before and I worry a lot for you," said Lynch. "This year, the presidential candidates alone have spent over $1 billion and in addition to that, other people can spend money running ads on their behalf. Over $2 billion has been spent on just the congressional races this year. That's an enormous amount of money, horrible sums of money.”
Lynch also noted that he felt the mudslinging in the current election is the worst he's ever seen.
"This is really ugly this time. This is the nastiest election I've ever seen and I'm looking for your help," Lynch said, explaining that every vote can change the current situation.
Mollis explained how to vote, showing the students a sample ballot, and explained how the newer machines work.
Both men expressed their opinion that Americans, in general, take their voting privileges for granted, especially when choosing not to vote. Both told the students how people in other countries take voting seriously, oftentimes risking their lives to cast their votes.
"I don't know why people don't vote. In some countries, voting is very dangerous and yet thousands of people will still go out and vote," Mollis said.
When asked their opinions or preferences in the current election, both men explained that everyone has issues that are important to them and that votes should be cast based on the issues that matter to each individual.
"In the end, we often get caught up on one issue, but honestly, what matters most is that you pay attention, educate yourself through every way available, not just from ads, and then decide freely," said Lynch. "See who cares about the same issues you care about."