After the main event, students broke into groups to participate in three other programs: a tour of the West Virginia State Museum, a West Virginia Constitution seminar and a mock state Legislature session.
Jake Glance, public-relations director for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, spoke about voting rights and voting patterns in the Mountain State.
Today, West Virginia has 1.2 million voters. But 240,000 of them are not registered in any of the four parties on the state ballot -- the Democratic, Republican, Mountain and Libertarian parties.
"Early voting began in 2002, allowing people to vote during 13 days shortly before Election Day. It has not increased voter turnout, but it has made it easier to vote.
"The percentage of voter turnout appears to be going down," Glance said. "During the 1950s and 1960s, it reached a high of 70 percent. Now, voter turnout is in the mid- to high 50-percent range.
"The increased number of voters who are registered," Glance added, "has led to a stable number of people voting."
Glance also pointed out that the Electoral College "assures that any state gets some attention. You have to campaign in small states, so states like West Virginia do not get ignored."
A small state can even change the results of a national election. If West Virginia had cast its five Electoral College votes for Al Gore in 2000, he would have become president. Gore also won the popular vote that year against George W. Bush.
Doug Wetsch, from the Ohio-West Virginia Youth Leadership Association, chaired mock West Virginia Senate sessions.
Students in one mock session Wetsch hosted chose to discuss growing prescription drug abuse and hypothetical legislation requiring all adults receiving public assistance to take drug tests once a month.
The overwhelming majority of the students in the session voted to pass that legislation.
Critics during the mock session raised questions about how much those tests, and the potential increase in jail terms, would cost the state. One critic said it was not fair to test only poor people.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.