Students at Pitt Meadows secondary have already cast their ballots for candidates running in the Oct. 19 election.
The teacher who organized the mock plebiscite isn’t sure she would like to see a lot of high school students voting for real, despite calls from the Green Party and other groups to lower the voting age to 16.
Holly Burrows said getting ready for their first vote with a practice run in high school, the student vote, is a better system.
“That’s why you give them an N and an L in driving – so they can learn the consequences of their actions.”
Some kids would have the maturity to vote at 16, but many wouldn’t, said Burrows.
When a group of Grade 11 boys learned that the Liberal Party was in favour of legalizing marijuana, they immediately became ardent supporters, she said.
The student vote strikes the right chord, she said.
“Run by the Student Vote people at CIVIX, this is an opportunity for students to practise voting, to have their own say in the issues and to tell their parents that they voted,” said Burrows, the social studies department head at the school.
CIVIX is a non-partisan national charity dedicated to build citizenship among young Canadians. It is conducting its student vote parallel to the federal election.
“We hope that this may lead to more parents voting, and to more young people voting in the future,” said Burrows.
One of her students, Sally Bachmann, said she appreciated the dry run, but wouldn’t want to take part in the real thing.
“We talked about it in class, and did the student vote,” she said. “It was a good experience, to know what it will be like when I can vote.
“I’d have to do research about who I would want to vote for. If I was voting on Monday I wouldn’t know who to vote for.”
Robbie Wood said the process did get the students talking politics in a meaningful way.
“We have disagreements over which party you think should run the country. I think Conservatives should be in office, but not Stephen Harper as he’s been in it too long. Whereas my buddy thinks Justin Trudeau would make a great prime minister,” said Wood.
He learned a lot on the student vote. Social Studies 11 students learn about politics and government, the difference between the first past the post system and proportional representation, about ridings and more. It’s all made more relevant by their own “participation” in the election.
“It’s a good experience for younger people to get to know the voting process,” said Wood.
Burrows said it is one of the most fundamental aspects of her course. If students take away only three things, she would have them be “Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach and you should vote.”
The ballot boxes are kept in a locked cabinet, and the results will only be revealed after the election.