Students head to the polls
Westlock teens part of nation-wide mock vote
Tuesday, Oct 20, 2015 06:00 am
Although it didn’t change who was elected in Monday’s federal election, local students took to the polls last week in a school-wide mock election vote.
On Oct. 15, Grades 7-12 students at R.F. Staples School were invited to participate and vote for the real candidates running in the Peace River-Westlock riding, just as voters did on Oct. 19.
The Student Vote program is offered through the Toronto-based not-for-profit group CIVIX, which partners with Elections Canada, but is up to individual schools to facilitate.
R.F. Staples principal Courtney Lawrance said it was the school’s social studies teachers that spearheaded the vote.
“We think it’s important that the students participate in the election process because as we know voter turnout in Canada has been relatively low,” Lawrance said.
“We feel that part of what we do here is to teach them about citizenship.”
Complete with the legitimate ballots, ballot boxes, and voting booths, the vote featured many other elements of a real election to make it as genuine as possible.
“We ran advanced polls [Wednesday] for kids that would be absent. We’re requesting they either have their student ID, a driver’s licence or some other form of ID to vote,” Lawrance said.
“We’re running it like a real polling station so we’ve encouraged kids to go before school. Some teachers are giving them class time to go like employers would give you time to go vote, and then we’re keeping it open until 4 p.m. so if students want to vote they have the opportunity to.”
Following the tally of the votes, which weren’t available prior to print deadline, results were submitted to CIVIX and Elections Canada.
The school will also review its results, which makes for a great learning opportunity.
“We always look at how our students vote in our school and then typically you can access how students voted across the country and then you can look at our results compared to the general population of Canada,” Lawrance said.
“It gives us opportunities to have some in-depth discussions about the election, ridings, and how representation by population and all those kids of things work.”
On student-election day waves of voters lined up in the school library for the opportunity to participate.
After casting his ballot, Grade 7 student Jaxon Snow said he voted because, “It’s the right thing to do.
“I liked going behind the screen and writing my vote,” he said. “It was pretty good.”
Grade 12 students Erin Shanks and Anastasia Toporowski, who were both just shy of being eligible to vote in the real election, said they enjoyed being heard.
“I think it’s important for younger people to know the voting process,” Shanks said. “We kind of get our own say in the matter even though we’re not legally allowed to vote.”
“I think it’s important that we introduce voting to younger people since so few eligible voters in Canada actually go out to the polling stations,” Toporowski added.
“It was pretty empowering, actually.”
For Grade 12 student Colby Lapalme-MacLean, who is also shy of meeting the age requirement, the student vote was the next best thing.
“I would like to vote, but I’m not 18, so I guess it’s a good idea to vote here,” he said.
“It’s nice because it gives kids who might not think voting is that serious to contribute to it and know more about it so that when they are 18 they’ll know what’s going on.”
Lawrance said she was pleased the election seemed to be well received by students.
“We’ve seen strong student turnout and they seem keen to vote, which is always good to see,” she said.
Ultimately Lawrance said her hope is that students walk away from the experience with a better understanding of the Canadian electoral system and a sense of civic responsibility.
“Hopefully it will carry forward to when they are adults and ready to vote and that they would actually take the time and see the value in it,” she said.