Youth cast ballots in student vote ahead of federal election

Days before Canadian adults went to the polls, students had a chance to do the same.

Flin Flon School Division and Frontier School Division facilities organized special elections for kids to learn more about the federal electoral system and practice exercising their rights as voters Oct. 16-17. The results aren’t counted as part of the normal federal election - the vast majority of voters are well beneath the minimum voting age of 18.

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The organization of the ballot was coordinated between teachers, administration and Student Vote Canada, a group that promotes knowledge of the electoral and political systems in Canada for young students. The group has organized polls in schools in every riding across Canada. Classes also have designated responsibilities on youth election day. Kids are entrusted to fulfill all the duties of a typical federal polling place. 

At Hapnot Collegiate, it was Kim Jones’ Grade 9 social studies class that took on that responsibility, including naming poll clerks and returning officers and showing students how they could cast their ballots.

“We started talking about government about two weeks ago with this class and introducing them to voting rights through time, geographical areas of the different ridings, civic action, different things like that to prepare them for what it may look like,” said Jones.

“She ran us through what to do. We put up posters and had to prepare for this, learning all the issues and learning how to vote and the people we have to vote for,” said Jordan Hucaluk, one of the Grade 9 poll clerks.

“We’re learning about how old you have to be to vote,” added student poll clerk Mackenzie Schwartz. Canada’s voting age is 18, although some candidates have proposed lowering the minimum to 16.

The vote came with a set of advance polls Oct. 16 for students. Other Flin Flon School Division facilities, including École McIsaac School, also held their own student votes.

Jones said teaching kids the basics of Canada’s electoral system was necessary and allowing them the chance to cast a ballot, even in an election that won’t count, was vital.

“I think it’s very important because Grade 9 social studies is actually the only class, throughout their high school career, where government is formally a part of the curriculum. I teach this every year, but only every four years or so is it actually running in conjunction with the federal election,” Jones said.

“It would be interesting to see if students who participated in Student Vote when they are going through the school system actually have higher participation in voting when they become an adult. I sure never got instructions like this when I voted for the first time.”

“It seems neat - this is how you vote. To know about what people do when they’re older and how we can vote, it’s interesting I guess,” said Hucaluk.

Students weren’t mandated to vote, but turnout was still high. Jones said the official results would be reported to Student Vote Canada before 6 p.m. Oct. 18, but would not be released publicly until after the actual federal election per organizational rules.

A number of students assigned the role of returning officer will do the final count, along with Jones.

Past results

In 2015, young people taking part in Student Vote across Canada voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Liberal Party of Canada, which received almost two-thirds of the total vote and the equivalent of 225 seats. The Conservative Party of Canada came second with 71 seats and just over 20 per cent of the vote, followed by the NDP with just shy of 12 per cent and the Green Party with just over one per cent. The NDP ended with 40 seats, while the Greens received four seats.

Kids in Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, including 28 schools from across northern Manitoba, voted for NDP candidate Niki Ashton. Ashton received more than half the overall vote in the north, but the races in Flin Flon was much closer, with Hapnot ending as a 39-37 win over Liberal candidate Rebecca Chartrand and McIsaac going 80-62 Ashton over Chartrand.

Across the provincial border in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, kids voted in Conservative incumbent Rob Clarke in a narrow victory over Liberal Lawrence Joseph, 559-539. Actual election winner Georgina Jolibois finished well back with 268 total kid votes. While Clarke won the kids’ vote in the riding, he was unpopular at Creighton Community School - out of 35 total votes, Clarke received none. Joseph received 22, the most of all candidates, while Jolibois earned 11.

Results of the 2019 Student Vote Canada campaign will be published in next week’s issue of The Reminder.

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