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Third-graders learn voting is the moral of this story

As far as the third-graders at Anclote Elementary School are concerned, Sleeping Beauty can keep on snoozing, and the Ugly Duckling isn't looking all that great. But Rumpelstiltskin is pure gold. Judging from the overwhelming popularity of the fairy tale at Anclote, Rumpelstiltskin might consider a career in politics.

More than 100 third-graders at Anclote learned about the process of voting Friday as they stepped into voting booths for the first time and cast ballots for their favorite fairy tales.

Although the voting choices were limited to tales of make-believe, much about the voting exercise was real.

The children voted on the real thing _ the same voting machines from the Supervisor of Elections office that are used in real elections. The long yellow ballots were the same kind used in elections. The oval "I voted" stickers the pupils received were the real thing, too.

There was even some lobbying for personal favorites and even hints of voting in blocs before the voting started.

"I was going to vote for The Ugly Duckling," 8-year-old Camilo Garcia said. "But at the last minute I changed my mind." Camilo explained that he cast his ballot for the odds-on favorite, Rumpelstiltskin, as he knew many of his friends would.

Tisha Berg, 8, also went with the crowd's favorite. "Everybody likes Rumpelstiltskin," Tisha said.

The teachers picked fairy tales the children knew well, and some teachers had the children read the stories before the election, said teacher Donna True.

Melanie Conkel, 9, wasn't swayed by all the pre-election talk of a Rumpelstiltskin landslide and cast a vote for The Ugly Duckling. "I like it because the duckling thinks he's not special, but then he finds out he is," Melanie explained.

Phillip Colvin, 8, also clearly ignored the obvious momentum in the Rumpelstiltskin camp and voted with his heart. "I like The Ugly Duckling because my mom used to read it to me all the time," he said.

After all the votes were in, Eleanor Mackley, the education coordinator for the Pasco Supervisor of Elections office, ran the ballots through the electronic counting machine and announced the results. The third-graders sat in rapt attention, many of them sporting "I voted" stickers on their foreheads and noses.

The results showed Rumpelstiltskin the big winner with 78 votes. The Ugly Duckling was a distant second with 18 votes. And in last place, Sleeping Beauty gathered 12 votes.

"That's okay. I like them all," said Elissa Mills, 8. "At first I voted for all three. But then I got another (ballot).