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WVHS students cast their ballots

Sophomore Ben Johannes places his ballot scanner with help League Women Voters mock electijudge Jane Barnes during mock presidential electiWaubonsie

Sophomore Ben Johannes places his ballot in the scanner with the help of League of Women Voters mock election judge Jane Barnes during a mock presidential election at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora on Tuesday, October 2, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Key election dates

Tuesday was the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 6 election. Other important election dates are:

Now through Nov. 5: Absentee voting period

Now through Nov. 3: Voter grace period

Oct. 22-Nov. 3: Early voting

Nov. 6: Election day

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Updated: November 4, 2012 6:17AM

AURORA — Election day came early for Waubonsie Valley High School students, and President Obama came out ahead.

Students were able to cast their presidential votes during the school’s Democracy Day festivities Tuesday, and Obama took 58 percent of the student vote.

From voter registration to a mock election, there was no shortage of a political pulse coursing through the school.

With the presidential debates scheduled for Wednesday night, and Tuesday as the voter registration deadline, Missey Wilhelm of the League of Women Voters of Illinois said there was no better time to host the event.

“This is our last push,” Wilhelm said on Tuesday as she watched dozens of students cast their ballots in the high school learning center.

On the McCormick Foundation Freedom Bus, nearly 50 students were registered to vote.

“People love voting in presidential elections, and the kids get really excited about it,” Wilhelm said.

That is a notion social studies teacher Chris Wolak has tried to instill in his students.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “We should all be passionate about our role in democracy. I hope some of the kids find that.”

Wolak said that voter enthusiasm has waned since 2008, but he has tried to impress upon students the issues that matter most to them. Health care, student loans and teenage unemployment are all factors the students might face, he said.

And if they’re not hearing about politics enough in the classroom, students said that political debates have spilled into their social media circles. Senior Kirin Upadhyay keeps up to date with President Obama on her Twitter feed, and junior Grant Pender watches his friends engage in debate on Facebook.

“Politics is in the news a lot right now,” he said. “You hear people talking about it that usually wouldn’t.”

“Social networking has definitely changed the face of the race,” Upadhyay said.

This year, Waubonsie Valley’s Youth in Government club saw a rise in membership, and both teens agreed that’s a great change.

Upadhyay and Pender said that the more thoroughly students are informed, the better off the nation will be. Pender noted that he feels confident about forming opinions now, and Upadhyay said she feels at ease helping people overcome misconceptions about either party.

Although she won’t be 18 by the time voters hit the election booths this year, Upadhyay said she is still staying on top of local and national political happenings. She is looking forward to Wednesday night’s presidential debates.

“A lot of teens are so focused on high school that they don’t want to think about anything else,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to have a voice; to make a difference.”

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