JONESBORO — In the midst of a tumultuous election season, two local legislators of different parties showed the positive aspects of representative democracy to a group of elementary students.

State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, spoke to Marsha Griffin and Marcy Bunden’s fourth-grade class Wednesday morning. The two longtime legislators answered questions from the students and gave insight into life in government.

Griffin said the students have been studying the three branches of the U.S. government and have taken a particular interest in the presidential election. The students will eventually hold their own mock election, Griffin said.

“I was really impressed by the amount of thought they put into it,” Griffin said.

Even at a fourth-grade level, Griffin said, the students are starting to develop an understanding of what elections are and its consequences.

“We’re trying to let them develop their own opinions,” Griffin said.

As the legislators began their visit, Forby asked the students who wanted to be the next president of the United States.

Almost the entire group raised their hands.

“We’re depending on you,” Bost said.

The legislators then explained what their respective offices are and how their districts are constituted.

“We work for the people,” Forby said. “That’s what legislators do.”

They also discussed how elections work, telling the students that the people have the opportunity to vote to retain their representatives or bring someone new into the office.

Bost said the students will have an opportunity to get involved, not only with their local government, but on a national level.

“That’s the advantage you have; other countries don’t have that,” Bost said.

The students asked a number of questions of the legislators. Among those questions were how laws are passed, why the capital of Illinois is in Springfield, what Bost and Forby’s days are like while they are in session and why Tamms Correction Center is closing.

Although Bost and Forby are of different parties, the two emphasized the importance of working together for the good of Southern Illinois.

“I think we do an excellent job,” Forby said. “If we split up, that’s going to hurt you.”

brent.stewart@thesouthern.com

618-351-5805

On Twitter: @BrentStewartSI

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