Reading about their poll reminded me that I too participated in the Weekly Reader poll when I was a kid. My first experience with democracy that I can recall was "voting" in the Ford-Carter election of 1976. My class ended up going for Carter by a vote of 13-7, and when Carter won the presidency, I assumed that my class had elected him.
Four years later, I remember being very surprised when Reagan won. Many of my fellow students and I wandered the halls and stairwells of the school on the day after Election Day, asking if anyone at all knew someone who had voted for Reagan. I was still too young to consider the fact that just because I knew of no one who voted for Reagan didn't mean that no one had. (Growing up in New York City does tend to give one a skewed view of how the country is voting as a whole.)
What I remember most about the Reagan-Mondale match-up was the electoral map showing Mondale with only Minnesota and Washington, D.C. colored in for him. If I recall correctly, the channel I was watching had colored in Reagan's states blue and Mondale's red, the reverse of what the networks tend to do now.
The first election I was able to vote in for real was the Dukakis-Bush election. I will always feel proud of how I voted in that election.
A final thought, somewhat personal.
I remember how, when I was little, Mom let my brothers and me into the voting booth with her. The booth had small levers that put an X next to the names of the candidates, and a big red lever that you pulled when you were finished which went KA-CHUNK, cleared the X's, and opened the curtain for the next voter. Mom told me to keep her vote secret; years later, she told me that as a little boy, my uncle had gone into the booth with my grandmother during the Eisenhower election and returned home to inform my grandfather that "Mommy likes Ike!" As my grandfather was a Democratic ward organizer, and my uncle blurted this out in front of some of his fellow Democrats, it was an embarrassing situation for all involved.
In 2004, Mom voted in a presidential election for what turned out to be the last time. And by an odd quirk of fate, I was there with her, and she let me accompany her into the voting booth so I could help her with the levers.
Next week: no levers, no booths. A bubble sheet and scanning machine.