School holds vote to introduce democratic process

Published on October 20, 2015

Thorburn Consolidated School Grade 8 students Austen MacInnis and Jayden Palmer are shown casting their ballots during a mock election as part of National Student Vote Week. SUBMITTED

THORBURN – While they aren’t eligible to vote, students across Pictou County cast ballots anyway, as part of National Student Vote Week.

“I feel very strongly about exercising our right to vote, that our grandparents and great- grandparents fought to protect,” said Dawn Chapman, a teacher at Thorburn Consolidated School who organized the program there. “By introducing the democratic process to students while they are young, we hope to instil an interest that continues when they reach the voting age.”

National Student Vote Week took place from Oct. 13 to 16, with elementary and high school students across the country voting for the federal candidates running in their local riding.

For the last several weeks of the federal election campaign, grade 7 and 8 students at TCS took part in the program, which is run by Elections Canada to engage young people in the democratic process.

TCS students had the opportunity to see and hear from four of the five candidates in Central Nova who visited the school. Alexander MacKenzie, who ran as an independent, didn’t meet with the students, but Chapman shared newspaper articles about him.

Chapman said all candidates who came to the school were impressed by the calibre of questions the students asked. “One Grade 7 student, Jarrett Jordan, asked about Bill C-51 and the candidate gave him a hug because he was so happy that he asked about this issue.”

Students then had their chance to select a candidate in a mock election held last Wednesday, with Sean Fraser getting 31 votes, Ross Landry receiving 18, Fred DeLorey getting six and David Hachey receiving three. MacKenzie didn’t have any votes cast for him, and two ballots were spoiled.

This is the third time TCS has participated in the Student Vote Program. Eleven other Pictou County schools also participated, with 1,020 students participating in the mock elections.

In Central Nova, a total of 26 schools took part in the Student Vote Program, resulting in 56.97 per cent voting for Fraser, 14.65 per cent for Hachey, 12.88 per cent for DeLorey, 12.34 per cent for Landry and 3.16 per cent for MacKenzie.

Across Canada, as part of the program, more than 850,000 votes were cast at 6,000 schools, representing 337 federal ridings.

A study conducted after the 2011 federal general election regarding the program found that it has a significant positive impact on many factors associated with voter turnout, including political knowledge, interest and attitudes, such as a sense civic duty.

The program’s aim is to educate young Canadians about democracy and elections and to help them develop the habit of voting before they turn 18.