A week before the 2020 New Hampshire presidential primary, the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication and New Hampshire PBS partnered to produce and livestream the first-ever student broadcast of the NH Primary Mock Election. The four-hour live event was hosted by Alexander Heffner, host of PBS’s “Open Mind,” and included student co-hosts, state election officials, campaign workers, activists, and even Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard.
Franklin Pierce President Kim Mooney welcomed participants to the Manchester Center, speaking particularly to the young people watching. “Our goal at the Fitzwater Center has always been to give voice to the younger generation in public discourse, and we welcome any opportunity to allow for that voice to come into our own thinking to help shape the thinking of the nation. You are our future. The more we can expose you to what’s happening nationally and locally, and the more you can give us your reflection and feedback on what you are experiencing, the better that process becomes.”
The Primary Mock Election has been a part of the New Hampshire primary season for over 20 years, and has accurately predicted the results in all but one primary. Dawn DeAngelis, Vice President and Chief Content Officer at NHPBS said, “This event is new – for the last several years the Primary Mock Election has been electronic, and we posted results during the day on our website. This year we livestreamed the voting, and it will be archived on our site. The student hosts who participated were incredibly well prepared.”
Through the NHPBS website, students in grades K-12 across the state have been able to research the Democratic and Republican candidates running in the New Hampshire primary. Even if they’re not old enough to vote themselves, they can research the topics that matter to them, and try to persuade their parents, grandparents, and older siblings and friends.
This year, over 4,000 students from 99 schools and classrooms participated in the Primary Mock Election. Senator Bernie Sanders led the Democratic ticket with 29.3% of the votes cast for qualified Democratic candidates, while President Donald Trump garnered 67% of the votes cast for qualified Republican candidates. Students were free to write in candidates as well.
High school students from Souhegan Cooperative High School in Amherst co-hosted and reported on voting tallies. The co-hosts interviewed guests on camera about topics ranging from health care to the environment to student debt. Franklin Pierce student Madison Leslie ’22 anchored another team of high school students who monitored vote totals and gave on-air updates throughout the webcast. Franklin Pierce students from the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communications operated four cameras and produced the livestream with the help of staff members Cory Finch and Andrew Zurheide.
Dr. Kristen Nevious, Director of the Fitzwater Center, was instrumental in the conception, planning and execution of the event. She was concurrently coordinating Rindge campus visits from primary candidates, managing a nationally recognized polling partnership between Franklin Pierce, the Boston Herald and NBC10/NECN/Telemundo, and deploying Politics FitzU students to campaign and primary events all over New Hampshire and in Iowa.
Nevious said, “Our mission at the Fitzwater Center is to prepare students to be active participants in the public discourse, and every four years we have this unique opportunity to plug in directly to the nation’s election process. Every year, our students rise to the challenge, building our reputation, and paving the way for opportunities for future Franklin Pierce students.”
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