Hernández School Students Couldn’t Vote, So They Interviewed Who Could

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The eighth grade students of the Rafael Hernández K-8 School were too young to vote on Election Day. Instead they got an Election Day education by hitting the polls to interview voters and learn about their views on the candidates and issues.  

The following article was written by the eighth graders of the Hernandez School:

Left: Geovanny Cruz interviews a voter; Right: Voters lined up outside of the Bowditch Building on Green Street on Election Day. (Photo by Melanie Allen)

Views from Green Street 

Eighth grade students from the Rafael Hernández K-8 in Egleston Square took a trip to the polls on the  morning of November 2nd, 2021, the day of Boston's  election. We went to the Bowditch polling station on Green Street to interview voters. 

The weather was sunny and crisp, and many voters came out with their dogs and children. Fourteen students (and their two teachers) stood in a line in front of the Bowditch building with clipboards. Some voters walked by, staring with a confused look, but we pushed out of our comfort zones to start conversations with these strangers. Eliani Martinez would start things rolling. "Hi, would you like to participate in our exit polling today?" 

We stood in groups of two, each with different sets of questions. One pair asked about the candidates they chose. Another asked about their votes on Questions 1, 2, and 3. The third pair asked voters about what matters most to them in this election. A fourth pair used their lessons on ethos, pathos, and logos to find out how voters were persuaded.  One pair noted demographic information. At the end of the line, Karin Montes de Oca and Naisha Marte had open interview questions. Any voter who claimed to be too busy to stop was offered  a piece of orange paper with a QR-code with the same survey questions, but online.

Wu for the win

Yohanna Peña conducts an exit poll interview.

In our small sample of 24 voters in Ward 19-6, only 8.7% chose Annissa Essaibi-George while 91.3% chose Michelle Wu. Almost half of the voters we talked to said that it was important to have a mayor who will "make big changes in Boston." Michelle Wu is known for her big ideas on public transportation  and housing, which for many people, made her the candidate of change. Given the desire for change, it's not surprising that Wu won. 

According to one voter we polled, "[Annissa's] too attached to the old Boston."

Voters' voices

In fact, a lot of voters had strong opinions about the losing candidate.  One voter, David, was asked, "Why didn't you vote for the opposing candidate?" He responded mocking Essaibi George's strong accent: "I didn't want to vote for the moth-ah or the teacher-ah."

Although he didn't want to vote for the "teach-ah," most voters we talked to found education important. Voters also informed us that they were worried about climate change in our area. Another top concern was police and public safety. Our poll only asked if the topic was important, not why. So we don’t know if voters wanted more police or less. One voter told us, “Candidate Wu was passionate about defunding the police.” 

Persuading the people

At our school, students learn in two languages, Spanish and English. Most students come from families who emigrated to the United States. We watched both candidates' TV ads, and Michelle Wu was looking for votes in the Spanish-speaking community. She had ads in Spanish. Both candidates had different languages available on their websites, but Wu actually spoke in Spanish.

We also watched parts of the debates. Most voters didn't watch the debates, but people who did watch said they were "strongly influenced" by them. 

Most of the voters we spoke to made up their minds a long time ago. Almost all the voters polled said they decided "more than one month ago" or "in the past month." Only two voters in our sample said they made their decision "in the past few days." Both those voters chose Michelle Wu. This was not surprising, because election results showed that 64% of voters chose Wu across the city.

The vast majority of people who were willing to share their vote publicly with us voted for Michelle Wu. We know that people voted for Essaibi George, but Essaibi George voters didn’t want to share their opinions with us. 

One police officer in uniform smiled politely but waved and said, “No politics, I’m working!” He wouldn’t take our QR code to complete our survey later either. Which candidate was he supporting? We might never know. 

The Rafael Hernández 8th graders are: Raymond Baez, Geovanny Castillo, Kevenlys Flores, Kenneth Francisco, Luna Garcia, Miguel Hilario, Luis Huertas, Saul Landestoy, Naisha Marte, Eliani Martinez, Luis Miralda, Karin Montes de Oca, Yohanna Peña, Gisleidy Pina, Randy Pina, Nairobe Polanco, Aracely Pujols, Manuel Rosales, Jhon Sanchez, Crismaily Sanchez, Yeison Soto, Ashly Soto, Geralinel Suarez, Theymardy Suazo, Kiara Tejeda, Gilary Toribio, Victor Veliz, and Franchesca Vicente.