Greater Trail students get a taste of democracy

On Monday, as many as 80,000 students from 750 schools will cast a ballot in a mock election for the candidates in their riding.

Whether it is a matter of mind-made-up or voter apathy, less than one per cent of the voting public showed up to participate in the all-candidates forums in Trail, Rossland, and Castlegar.

And, with a voter turnout of just over 50 per cent in the 2009 provincial election, a student program offered through Elections BC is hoping to one day increase those numbers by engaging the younger generation in the voting process, now.

On Monday, as many as 80,000 students from 750 schools will cast a ballot in a mock election for the official candidates in their riding, as part of Student Vote BC.

In the Kootenay West District, both elementary  and high school grades will participate, including students from  J.L. Crowe; and elementary schools in Rossland, Fruitvale, Salmo and Glenmerry.

“About 750 students from Grade 8 to 12 will be casting their votes,” said Doug Bruce, teacher sponsor at Crowe.

“The students from my Social Studies 11 class are leading it, I’m just there to help direct it.”

Throughout the year, the Social Studies teachers have been lecturing the students in class and talking about left wing and right wing values, said Bruce.

A voting “compass” document was also used in some of the lessons, that in effect, pointed to which political party best reflected the student’s values after a series of questions were presented and answered in class.

“It is interesting to note, that the last time we had an election, the Student Vote closely mirrored the public’s vote,” said Bruce.

“Although, whether it was teacher influence or parents talking at home, that we don’t know.”

For almost a decade, Student Vote has run  parallel to official elections.

The program combines in-class learning, family dialogue and media literacy to culminate in an authentic in-school vote.

“In my opinion, the student vote is a great way to try and lower voter apathy, especially among young adults, the demographic group with the lowest voter turnout,” said Jesse Bartsoff, J.L. Crowe Student Vote coordinator.

Bartsoff said that the student vote isn’t as much about which party to vote for, but more so, the electoral process itself.

“It is very important that we learn about politics before leaving school,” he said.

“After all, we have the ability to vote right in front of us, yet often ignore it, while young adults around the world are dying for such a right.”

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