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West Pictou students cast their vote in mock election


Published on May 29, 2017

Grade 8 students at West Pictou Consolidated, along with Grades 6 and 7 students, participated in Student Vote on Monday. Shown are Austin MacDonald, Jessica MacDonald, Reese Foote, Myles Farnsworth, Dakota Sponagle, Paige Geddes and Declan Rorison.

©Carol Dunn

LYONS BROOK - Students across Pictou County got the chance to participate in a mock election on Monday, voting for the candidate in their riding they would like to see elected in Tuesday’s provincial election.

About 275 students at West Pictou Consolidated in Grades 6 to 8 participated in Student Vote, casting ballots for one of four candidates in the riding of Pictou West – Progressive Conservative Karla MacFarlane, Liberal Ben MacLean, New Democrat Shawn McNamara or the Green Party’s Cecile Vigneault.

Stephanie Watson teaches Grade 7 social studies at the school, and said all three grades learn about the rights of Canadian citizens. “It fits in with the outcomes,” she said.

Watson said she spent time talking about the voting process to her students, teaching them how to correctly mark a ballot. They also watched TV interviews with the party leaders to help them decide how they would vote.

The Student Vote program is a hands-on learning program that enables educators to bring democracy to life in the classroom, empowering students to experience the voting process firsthand and practice the habits of active and engaged citizenship, said Dan Allen, director of content for CIVIX Canada, which organizes the program.

CIVIX provides the voting screens and ballot boxes, along with ballots. At West Pictou, Grade 8 students volunteered to act as poll clerks, scrutineers and deputy returning officers. Watson said the parallel election is set up exactly like a real polling station.

She said the entire experience is very valuable, noting that voter turnout in Nova Scotia tends to be low – around 60 per cent – and Student Vote is intended to make them familiar with the process and to get students engaged so they will vote when they’re old enough. “The whole point is to increase voter turnout and to get young people involved with the voting process.”

She said students reflected afterwards about how they came to the decision of which candidate they chose. “It gets the kids talking. I hear them talking in the hall about who they’re going to vote for.”

Watson said many students talked about the issues at home as well, and she knows some have gone to advance polls with their parents because they want to see what polling stations look like.

Approximately 15,000 elementary, middle and high school students across the province were expected to take part in the province-wide Student Vote program. A total of 186 schools registered to participate in Student Vote Nova Scotia 2017, representing 50 of 51 electoral districts.

A.G. Baillie Memorial, Dr. Thomas McCulloch Junior High, Dr. W.A. MacLeod Consolidated, New Glasgow Academy, Thorburn Consolidated, Walter Duggan Consolidated and North Nova Education Centre also participated in Monday’s Student Vote.

“In past elections, they tend to follow what actually happens in the elections,” said Watson, noting that the school has participated in Student Vote during several other provincial and federal elections. “Every election we’ve done, it’s always the same as the riding.”

Student Vote results will be released when polls close on Tuesday.

CIVIX

Since 2003, CIVIX has coordinated 36 Student Vote projects at federal, provincial, territorial and municipal elections across Canada.

In the 2015 federal election, 922,000 students cast ballots from 6,662 schools representing all 338 ridings. Students elected a Liberal majority government.

The Student Vote project for the 2017 Nova Scotia provincial election is being conducted with support from Elections Nova Scotia, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and the Government of Canada.