Mock Election for High Schools

by: Zvi Grumet

Background

The Israeli Knesset has 120 seats. Israelis do not vote for a specific candidate but for a party list. The system is one of proportional representation, whereby the number of seats each list is granted is in proportion to the number of votes it receives in the elections.
Once the elections are held and the number of Knesset seats are determined, the party with the most seats is asked to form a government. Since there are many political parties, it is rare for any one party to have enough seats in the Knesset to form a majority on its own, so that it must join with other parties in a coalition.
Since the larger party needs the smaller ones to form a coalition, the small parties have some bargaining power. They must be careful not to bargain too hard, because the larger party can always look for different partner whose demands may be less.

Preparation for the Mock Election

In our mock election we are going to limit ourselves to seven political parties. Their positions on some issues will differ, but there may be overlap between them on other issues. For the sake of clarity, we will describe their positions here on three or four issues, but will also highlight special features of each party that may be outside of those issues. (You may want to have your students do independent research on these parties to deepen their understanding and see a broader range of issues.)
Before you kick off the campaign, you may want to read this article to your students. The article includes a diary entry describing what it was like to vote in Israel’s first election in 1949.
Student leaders should be selected as party leaders in the school. Their job will be to study the issues and conduct an election campaign, including slogans, jingles, campaign signs, etc. Two weeks prior to the election they should choose or be assigned their parties, and should spend three days researching their party’s platform. At that point the election campaign begins with election posters, electioneering, etc. The posters etc. should not reflect the personalities of the individuals, but the positions of the parties. All students should receive copies of the handouts (brief descriptions of the political parties), and a class hour should be devoted to discussing them. One suggestion is to devote the first 20 minutes of the class to having the students study the parties in small groups for familiarity, and devote the second half of the class to having the students divide themselves according to which parties they’d want to join.

The Election

As soon as the campaign begins there should be time set aside for campaign speeches, so that each party has the opportunity to present itself formally. This might be done in a single assembly of the student body or a series of mini-assemblies. Each party should have 5-10 minutes to present their positions before the electorate.
Three days prior to the election there should be an election debate. Again, care needs to be taken that the debate be moderated and that it be limited to issues, not personalities. On the day of the election all the students should be reminded that the elections is for the parties, not for the individuals leading the parties. Some schools may want to actually remove the party leaders from their positions to encourage a true vote. Ballots should be distributed, and the results tallied and posted.
Some schools may want to follow up their election with negotiations to form a coalition. This will require additional research into the issues concerning the parties and on which issues they are prepared to compromise. The following portfolios should available for distribution to coalition partners after careful negotiations:
Defense, Finance, Housing, Education, Religion, Infrastructure, Culture, International Relations, Social Welfare, Interior

Polls

Sometimes polls can be unreliable. Nevertheless they can still reflect swings and the electorates mood. They often also help voters decide how they would vote, especially the tactical voter. You can find a number of polls at the bottom of the article here.