Election Simulation season kicks off remotely with kickoff rally video

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This past Wednesday, the senior class launched the annual Election Simulation. Every year, Townsend Harris hosts an election simulation in which seniors represent candidates that are running in elections on state and national levels, special interest groups, or behind the scenes social media coverage roles. This year, four separate races are being represented in the election simulation: President/Vice President, Queens Borough President, Congressional District 11, and Congressional District 14.

Due to limitations caused by the coronavirus, the annual election simulation will be entirely remote. Typically, the kickoff rally takes place in the THHS courtyard during seventh band, where candidates and special interest groups are able to interact with students and introduce themselves. However, this year, the kickoff rally came in the form of a video. The video was posted on the Hawks Broadcasting Channel on YouTube and on the Election Simulation website on Wednesday. Social studies teachers were notified that it was available, and encouraged to let students know that it was available for viewing.

Candidates introduced themselves in videos they filmed remotely. Special Interest Groups, which are advocacy groups who try to influence public opinion and policy, also introduced themselves through self-taped videos. The issues that will be addressed in this year’s election simulation are COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, abortion, education, and climate change.

“The kickoff rally video was nerve-wracking as it would define the first impression that students would have of me as a candidate. I wanted to appeal to them and put the points of my candidate on display, but I was unsure of how to do it,” explained senior Amanda Grivej, who is representing Queens Borough President candidate Joann Ariola. “I think I managed to get the points across and show what the candidate believes in, but I’m worried it wasn’t interesting or appealing enough to students to get them interested in the candidate.”

Senior Brian Rettig, who is representing presidential candidate Joseph Biden, said, “It was interesting making the kickoff rally video. The first time I did a Zoom recording, there were some technical difficulties, so I stuck with my second take…It’s a challenge organizing certain events because of the virtual stuff, but we’re making do with filming with the people who are able to film together, and Zoom has been really helpful and instrumental in bridging the gap.”

Brian squares off against senior Qazi Ali, who represents Donald Trump. They are set to debate later this month.

Another major difference between the 2020 election simulation kick-off video and prior years was the lack of a physical audience. Although media has played a big role in the past through the means of the tv show and radio show, as well as through social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, it will now encompass the entirety of the simulation since physical interactions are prohibited.

Although the seniors were not able to physically meet to coordinate and produce like previous years, Election Simulation Coordinator Jaime Baranoff expressed a surprising positive she encountered while planning the kickoff rally.

Ms. Baranoff said, “I actually think it was easier to pull off the Kickoff Rally virtually than in person! All of the candidates and Special Interest Groups produced their own short videos and emailed them to our editors. The editors pieced everything together.”

Senior Alexa Jude Tumulak, who helped edit the kickoff rally video, added, “The editing process was fairly simple for the kickoff rally. Our editing team is small, about six people. We split up the candidate clips and special interest group clips among us to edit together. Honestly, the only problems we face when editing is when people submit their clips and they’re vertical. Dear seniors, stop recording vertically!” 

For the Class of 2024, this virtual change is their first experience with the Election Simulation.

Freshman Sally Zhang said, “I thought the kickoff rally video was fun to watch. There were candidates running for positions I didn’t even know were significant.”

Sophomores and juniors expressed their anticipation for the rest of Election Simulation.

“Last year’s election sim was absolutely amazing! The people were committed and tried their best to make everything interesting and hilarious,” said sophomore Arietta Xylas. “I think this year, the candidates will also try their bests to put on a show and have a great time, but it will definitely look different! I have high hopes though.”

Sophomore Erica Lee said, “I enjoyed watching the kickoff rally video because it was so different from what I had seen last year, yet still an embodiment of the several fundamental ideas of the Election Simulation. Due to our circumstances in this pandemic, the simulation is virtual this year – I believe everyone did a great job in setting it up, as it still stays true to the tradition of our school, despite being online.”

Junior Raquel Mulakandov added, “I think this year’s election sim will differ compared to previous years because we won’t have the same experience as going to bake sales and seeing campaign posters in the hallways. However, I’m looking forward to seeing how the candidates will campaign remotely and how they will use social media to appeal to the school.”

“I hope that the seniors will learn a lot about a lot of different things–from electoral politics in US to the way special interest influence the democratic process to the positions held by each candidate on each issue to the importance of participating in our American democracy to teamwork to the ability to speak confidently in public,” said Ms. Baranoff. “I hope the underclassmen will learn about our political processes here in the US and in NYC, the different candidates and special interest groups, the issues we currently face as a nation, the important role played by citizens in a democracy, and more.”

Link to Election Simulation website and kickoff rally video: https://elections.townsendharris.org

Photo courtesy of The THHS Election Simulation Media Team