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Student Vote: Empowering future voters


Photos provided by CIVIX.

By Lindsay Mazzucco, CEO of CIVIX

 

For the last 20 years, educators throughout the country have been engaging their schools in a program that brings democracy into the classroom and helps students develop the habit of electoral participation.

 

Student Vote is a parallel election for students under the voting age that coincides with general elections. Students explore government and democracy, research the parties and platforms, and discuss the election with family and friends. In the culminating activity, students take on the roles of election workers, set up voting stations, and cast ballots for official candidates running in their electoral district.

 

Participating schools receive lesson plans, videos, slide decks, and other tools to teach key concepts and support their research and analysis of the parties and candidates. Ballots, ballot boxes, and voting screens are also provided to help create an authentic voting experience.

 

The initiative was designed to give students a taste of politics, foster their connection to the community, and help reverse the decline in voter turnout.

 

We believe democracy and citizenship are best learned through practice, and the need to foster the skills of responsible and informed citizenship has only grown more urgent. We are so grateful for the time and passion that teachers dedicate to bringing this program to life for their students.

 

Program evaluations have demonstrated that Student Vote develops the characteristics of young voters among participants, including enhanced civic knowledge, increased political interest and discussion about politics, and a greater sense that voting is a civic duty.

 

The first Student Vote program available to British Columbia teachers was held during the 2004 Canadian federal election. The project engaged more than 245 schools and 30,000 students in the province. Twenty years later, the program now engages 1,200 schools and around 200,000 students during provincial and federal elections throughout British Columbia.

 

Teachers love the program and keep coming back. We asked three local CIVIX ambassadors why they are involved with Student Vote. Here is what they had to say.

 

Jeremy Reid

Like a learner’s license for voting

Jeremy Reid, Kamloops Thompson

Student Vote provides students with an opportunity to practise exercising their democratic rights. It’s like getting their learner’s license for voting in a safe format, where they can learn the process and see how it goes. Hopefully, when they’re of age to be able to vote, they’ll see the importance and take the time to vote.

 

We’ve been doing Student Vote for a number of years. The last time I looked at the numbers for our school district, even though we’re not the largest school, we had more ballots cast than any other school. I’m so proud of our school-wide engagement in the program. And it’s kind of built-in now. It’s baked into the culture at the school. Whenever there’s a hint of some election, I always have students coming up to me wondering about the next Student Vote.

 

Katie Glover

A rewarding experience

Katie Glover, Langley

In my school, we set up the voting booths in the library and have student volunteers from social studies classes run the polls from before the first bell until the end of the day. We advertise the election beforehand and make reminder announcements the day of. Our goal is to have as many students vote as possible!

 

Participating in Student Vote is more than just about “election day.” I really enjoy the lessons, research, and conversations about democracy students engage in leading up to Student Vote day. It also feels very rewarding when students are eager to see the results of the real election after participating in the program.

 

I participate in Student Vote because I think it’s essential that students have the opportunity to understand the importance of voting and practise engaging in democracy. My hope is that by practising voting, they will feel confident and motivated to vote in the future.

 

Alistair King

Empowering students to take action

Alistair King, Nanaimo

In my classroom, I stress that understanding and participating in the democratic process is not just a civic duty but a vital way to shape our society. Participating in Student Vote allows students at my school to engage directly with this process. It’s an immersive way for them to learn about political parties, their platforms, and the electoral system. The program helps me demystify the voting process, make it accessible, and show young people that their voices matter.

 

As the social studies department head, I co-ordinate the distribution of CIVIX-provided lesson plans to teachers and lead my students through the learning process. We form an election team from the student body to manage our mock election, mirroring real-world electoral roles. A highlight is our all-candidates meeting/debate/town hall, where election candidates engage with students in a lively discussion, deepening their understanding of political issues and processes.

 

Student Vote transforms abstract concepts into tangible, actionable experiences. This hands-on approach ignites their interest and deepens their understanding of political engagement. Seeing a student who was indifferent to politics become passionate about a particular issue or candidate reminds me of the power of education to inspire change.

 

The program also sparks discussions that extend beyond the classroom, involving families and the wider community, thereby strengthening the democratic fabric of our society.

 

Get involved

CIVIX is proud to collaborate with Elections BC to provide the Student Vote program free to schools for the October 2024 provincial election. Sign up your school for Student Vote BC at www.studentvote.ca.

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