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Virtual Voting

Think video games only include bad guys and guns? Guess again. A politically-minded CD ROM, complete with virtual reality voting, is the newest brainchild of the Center for Governmental Studies, a center run by Larry J. Sabato, government and foreign affairs professor.

Virginia middle and high school students will soon be able to plug in to these hypothetical political scenarios with the click of a mouse. Crafted by the Center for Governmental Studies and the Youth Leadership Initiative, the CD ROM, christened "A More Perfect Union," will seek to increase the political acuity of area youth.

The highlight of the CD will be an interactive election simulation replicating a Senate Race occurring in the hypothetical state of "Franklin."

And Franklin is no random name.

Ken Strupe, director of the Youth Leadership Initiative said the state's name is historically accurate -- from 1784 to 1788 the state of Tennessee actually bore this name.

Participants in the program will also have the option of choosing from four possible candidates whose political leanings closely match their own.

"The first lesson students will learn is that in politics, no one is going to share your opinions 100 per cent of the time," Strupe said.

As one feature of the CD ROM, students will have the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of a virtual political machine as campaign managers. The campaign managers' responsibilities will include raising money, tailoring campaign commercials, reviewing polls and determining which districts the candidate will visit. Along the campaign trail, students may encounter pitfalls and scandals and can choose to run "a clean, wholesome campaign, or a nasty, mudslinging one" to try to win, Strupe said.

Although the idea of "A More Perfect Union" is firmly in place, the nitty gritty details of the CD ROM itself are still being compiled. With the help of Erik Elvgren, production manager for the University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies, filming for "A More Perfect Union" has been going on for the past two weeks.

The crew is anxiously awaiting April 17th, when the next phase of filming will include an election night victory and concession speeches. Strupe said any University student who wants to partake in the filming is invited to Zehmer Hall on Alderman Road, and is only required to sign a release form.

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