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Next U.S. President to be Determined by Western Illinois University Students; Nation’s Largest Simulated Presidential Election Begins Oct. 25

October 21, 2011

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – Tuesday, Oct. 25, upwards of 5,000 students representing more than 25 academic departments and each academic college at Western Illinois University, and well over 100 faculty and staff, begin a five-night process of electing the next U.S. president in the nation's largest simulated presidential election.

The mock election, "The Road to the White House Starts at Western Illinois University," is, as much as possible, a student-driven event, according to John Hemingway and Richard Hardy, executive co-directors.

The Mock Presidential Election, a successful event at WIU in 2007, is patterned after a previous simulation Hardy and Hemingway organized at the University of Iowa in 1976, and another model Hardy conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia (1988). In all three scenarios, the simulation winner was, in reality, elected president.

Students from WIU's Macomb and Quad Cities campuses will convene in the WIU-Macomb University Union to learn first-hand about civic engagement, while trying to keep the perfect election streak alive. The schedule of events, which is available at, includes:

Tuesday, Oct. 25 – State Caucuses and Primaries

(University Union Grand Ballroom)

  • 5:30-7:30 p.m. Republicans
  • 8-10 p.m. Democrats

Thursday, Oct. 27 – National Convention Begins; Keynote Speech, Platform Adoption

(Grand Ballroom)

  • 5:30-7:30 p.m. Republicans
  • 8-10 p.m. Democrats

Tuesday, Nov. 1 – National Convention Concludes; Nominate President, Vice President

(Grand Ballroom)

  • 5:30-7:30 p.m. Republicans
  • 8-10 p.m. Democrats

Thursday, Nov. 3 – Viable Third Party Conventions; Nominate Ticket

  • 5:30-7 p.m. Green Party National Convention, keynote, platform, nominations (Union Heritage Room)
  • 6:30-8 p.m. Tea Party National Convention, keynote, platform, nominations (Union Lamoine Room)
  • 7:30-9 p.m. Libertarian Party National Convention, keynote, platform, nominations (Union Heritage Room)

Monday, Nov. 7 – America Elects a President

  • 6:30-8:30 p.m. Presidential Campaign and Electoral College Vote; all parties (Western Hall)

The Student's Perspective

Preliminary to the Oct. 25 simulation kickoff, Hardy, Hemingway, faculty, staff and community volunteers have been working behind the scenes to provide resources so that students may have the best experiences possible. Students also have been hard at work preparing for the simulation.

Campaign manager Jenna Verity, a senior political science major and pre-law honors minor, has presidential nominee Michelle Bachmann.

"I decided to work for the Bachmann campaign because she is a very influential female who appeals to many people and is a strong potential candidate for the GOP nomination. If she does not win the nomination, she has the ability to run for the Tea Party nomination, so it makes her a flexible candidate, appealing to both moderate and more radical Republicans," Verity said.

Being a campaign manager is "a lot of organizing," Verity added, along with the following list of ‘to do' items: "contact the campaigns, get campaign workers, prepare campaign literature, evaluate the candidate's platforms on a variety of different issues, decide what issues are most important to various states to evaluate how to persuade them to vote and keep in contact with a variety of people in order to prepare for the sessions.

Verity said Bachman is unable to attend the mock election. "However, with the assistance of (Illinois State) Rep. Noreen Hammond, we are working on getting a video message from her."

D'Angelo Taylor, a senior political science major from Richmond, VA, who served as Western's Board of Trustees' student trustee (2009-2010) and is a past president of the Student Government Association, is campaign manager for Barack Obama.

"I chose President Obama because he is an inspiration to me and many other college students. I feel as if he's done a lot of things for students in general. The Pell Grant was increased when he took office, thus giving many students an opportunity to attend college. His decisions have mirrored the promises made in his 2008 campaign, and his resolve under pressure is something that hasn't been seen in a long time," Taylor said.

"We, as students, actually have a lot of power in the electoral process, but we take it for granted by not voting. I think this exercise is a great way to help students become more informed about whom they're voting for," he added.

Dan Rutherford to Stump for Mitt Romney; Terry, Stein Indicate Macomb Stop

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford will speak about America's future and Gov. Mitt Romney's plan for the future at the Tuesday, Oct. 25 opening session.

Candidates who have indicated their intent to appear at the simulation include Democrat Randall Terry and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. There has also been an inquiry from the Ralph Nader organization, according to Hardy.

Information on the Web

Find schedules, candidates, issues, student leaders, civic leaders, FAQs and more on "The Road to the White House Starts at Western Illinois University" website at

The Co-Directors' Views

"As co-directors, our basic task is to facilitate student involvement – in a sense, to provide place, time and resources for the students to simulate, as realistically as possible, the presidential election process from start to finish. We do not endorse or promote any candidate, party or issue. Our focus is entirely on making this the best possible opportunity for students to gain leadership experience, learn more about our political system and hopefully have some fun along the way," Hemingway said.

Students learn the political progression using the actual nominating and election processes, from primaries through the nominating conventions to election night. Election laws of the various states and the rules of the various political parties are followed. The simulation is based on real-life processes, real numbers and real candidates that are turned into a framework to assist students in the learning process," Hardy added.

Prepping for Careers

Many students take on roles directly related to their fields of study. Recreation, parks and tourism administration students help with event management tasks, such as providing special event experience. Broadcasting students cover the event as commentators and reporters. Journalism students write news articles, editorials and blogs. Art students prepare graphic materials. Music students sing the national anthem each session. ROTC students present the colors, said Hemingway.

"It is an all-campus event that involves students from as many fields and in as many real-life roles as possible. Many of those students aren't just simulating, but are actually doing what they're preparing to do for careers," he added.

A Civil Outcome

The outcome of the mock presidential election is not just to select the next president; it is also to learn about civic responsibility and participation, according to Hardy.

"Students should leave with a better understanding of the American political processes; the differences between presidential caucuses and presidential primaries; the importance of local political participation; the differences between the various political parties, what they do and why they do it; and the actual presidential candidates, their records and issue positions. Most importantly, we hope everyone leaves the venue with a desire to participate in our political system in the future," Hardy said.

Three, Two, One... On the Air

Western Illinois University's broadcasting majors and wiutv3 will be on-camera and behind the scenes each night, providing television coverage of the presidential election simulation, that will air live on Channel 3 in Macomb.

Anchors are seniors Paul Strater (Oswego, IL) and Shey Carden (Silex, MO). Junior Rachel Steibing (Chicago 60630) will be the on-the-floor reporter doing spot interviews. The balance of the students will operate cameras; work the switcher, audio board and character generator; and keep voter statistics. Some crew members will help gather information from the political camps.

Broadcasting students participating including the following, by county and city:


BLUE ISLAND (60406) – Crystall Dolley, freshman
BURBANK (60459) – Juan Reyes, freshman
CALUMET CITY (60409) – Justin Jackson, freshman
CHICAGO (60628) – Steve Hodges, senior
DES PLAINES (60018) - Nick Sintich, junior
GLENVIEW (60025) – Daniel Kruzel, junior
OAK FOREST (60452) – Jim Everette, sophomore
RIVERSIDE (60546) – Dave Mitchell, freshman

GENESEO (61254) – Stephanie Martin, sophomore; John Mullin, freshman

BOURBONNAIS (60914) – Dan Pourray, sophomore

GALESBURG (61401) – Katie Haptonstahl, junior

BUFFALO GROVE (60089) – Seth Rabin, junior

MACOMB (61455) – Jared Pletsch, senior

MARENGO (60152) – Adam Bachleda, senior

SPRINGFIELD (62711) - Kelsey McKenna, senior

FREEPORT (61032) – Raven Lenoir, freshman


BURLINGTON (52601) – Sarah Jennings, senior; Savanna Quam, junior
NEW LONDON (52654) – Nick Juarez, senior

SILEX (63377) – Shay Carden, senior


WIRRAL, MERSEYSIDE - Rebecca "Becky" Oliver, sophomore

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