LEARNING ABOUT ELECTION PROCESS

Ballots are counted after the student vote at Swift Current Comprehensive High School, Oct. 18. From left to right, business education, skills and apprenticeship teacher Cindy Lowe, and Grade 11 students Meadow Coates and Kirby Erick.

There was another election last week across Canada to vote for candidates in the 2019 federal election.

More than one million elementary and secondary students in all 338 ridings participated in Student Vote Canada 2019 from Oct. 15-18.

National Student Vote Week gave school-aged students an opportunity to experience the voting process in practice and to learn about the Canadian political system and government.

Eighteen schools in the Chinook School Division participated in Student Vote Canada 2019. The student vote at Swift Current Comprehensive High School was coordinated by the SCCHS Business Club.

Business education, skills and apprenticeship teacher Cindy Lowe felt it made sense for the Business Club to be involved in organizing the vote at the school.

“One of the mandates of the business club is to expose kids to debate, entrepreneurship, finance and the world around them through experiential activities, case competitions, and doing real life experiences,” she said. “Voting in an election is to experience democracy, because we all have the right to vote and have a voice. We see lower turnout and apathy amongst adults, and I really want to develop an engaged citizen of the future through our business club initiatives. So this was a natural fit for us.”

A team of around 20 students coordinated the voting process at the school. They performed roles such as returning officer and poll clerks, and also helped to raise awareness in the school about the upcoming vote. They wore bright yellow t-shirts with the message “Get Out the Vote.”

The school received ballots and election boxes, and the students followed the same process as an actual election official carried out on election day.

In the run-up to the vote there were various activities in the school to give all students an opportunity to learn about the election process and to become familiar with the six candidates standing for the federal election in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands riding.

The Business Club hosted a screening of the all-candidates forum that took place in Swift Current on Oct. 10 and the online link to this video was also shared in the school. 

“Teachers individually shared different things in their classroom, however it fit with their content and their curriculum,” she said.

The student vote took place on Oct. 16 during the entire school day and there was a second vote day in the morning on Oct. 18 for students who missed the initial opportunity to vote.

Lowe was happy with the turnout, with 569 students voting in the election. It achieved their goal of a voter turnout of more than 50 per cent for the school. The ballot papers were counted at the school and the voting results were then submitted before the Oct. 18 deadline to CIVIC, the national charity organization responsible for organizing Student Vote Canada 2019.

Grade 11 student Meadow Coates was one of the deputy returning officers for the SCCHS student vote.

“I was in charge of supervising all of our volunteers and making sure that they knew what they were doing and how to do it, because every once in a while we didn't have a teacher with us, because they have classes,” she said.

She went to Ottawa in March to attend a Forum for Young Canadians session, which gives youth an opportunity to study the processes of government. They held a mock election during that session.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I was involved with that one too. So when I got back, I suggested it to Mrs. Lowe in the Business Club, and helped it become a reality.”

Coates felt the student vote at the school went really well and the participation was higher than they anticipated.

“There were a few students who were a little apprehensive about participating, but we convinced most of them that it's just a student vote,” she said. “This is good practice for an actual federal election when they are 18 and eligible, but there was a super positive response. We had so many students excited. We had a few people with notes on who they wanted to vote for. It was really great.”

She thought the student vote at the school was a useful way to inform and prepare students to participate in elections when they are old enough to vote.

“It's important, because it shows people what voting in an actual federal election will be like,” she said. “So they're more likely to vote. So this way we're increasing the number of youth voters in upcoming elections, because it's not as scary.”

Grade 11 student Kirby Erick helped out with the deputy returning officer duties and she was also a poll clerk.

“So my job was to cross off the people's names who came to vote and hand them a ballot and tell them how to fill it out and where to go,” she said.

She felt the student vote helped to make students more aware about the election and the voting process.

“It's much easier than you think and it's nowhere near as scary as some people think it is to do,” she said. “I think people are intimidated by the process, but once we have the young people come and do it themselves, they become a lot less scared and are more likely to vote.”

The SCCHS Business Club hosted an election results party for students, family and staff on Oct. 21, where they announced the outcome of the school’s student vote.

The student vote at SCCHS mirrored the actual election results for Cypress Hills-Grasslands. The majority of students (67.31 per cent) voted for Conservative Party candidate Jeremy Patzer and 12.48 per cent voted for NDP candidate Trevor Peterson. The other candidates received slightly more support from the students than in the actual election. The student vote for the other candidates were: Bill Clary, Green Party – 8.26 per cent, Lee Harding, People’s Party – 4.57 per cent, William Caton, Liberal – 4.22 per cent, Maria Lewans, Independent – 3.16 per cent.

The Student Vote Canada 2019 results for all the federal ridings across the country were released after the conclusion of voting in the Oct. 21 federal election. A total of 1,189,595 votes were reported from 8,002 schools. The outcome of the national student vote reflected the results in the federal election. Students elected a minority Liberal government. The Liberal Party received 22.3 per cent of the vote and 112 seats. A difference from the real election was that students elected the NDP as the official opposition with 24.8 per cent of the vote and 98 seats. The Conservative Party received 25.1 per cent of the popular vote and 93 seats.

The full results from Student Vote Canada 2019 are available online at www.studentvote.ca

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