Students learn about voting by doing it

Tens of thousands of students under 18 have been getting a taste of the provincial election through the Student Vote program over the past few days.

A total of 1,040 schools across B.C. are involved and all 87 electoral districts are represented.

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Voting took place Wednesday and Thursday. Students didn’t just cast ballots, they also worked as election officials and co-ordinated the voting process. Results will be made public Saturday.

Royal Bay Secondary in the Sooke School District had 400 of its 1,200 students voting through the program, said teacher Tanya Phillips.

Teams of three student volunteers visited classrooms to explain how the process works, she said. “They had a script where they talked about universal suffrage, and that in Canada, we are so fortunate to have everybody, as long as you’re a Canadian citizen and over 18, to be able to vote.”

The school also participated in Student Vote during last year’s federal election, and some of the students who volunteered returned to help with the B.C. election student vote, said Phillips, noting two of last year’s student volunteers are working as officials in the provincial election.

The students also reminded their peers that they can register to vote at 16 and 17, “so then the next time there is an election, their voter cards will be sent to their home.”

Ayala Johnson, a Grade 6/7 teacher at Royal Oak Middle School, said her class was “really keen” on Student Vote.

“I think that for young people, it’s important for them to be involved in activities that should be regular as they become adults,” she said.

Dan Allan of Student Vote said students involved in the program, which began in 2003, range from Grade 4 to Grade 12.

The long-term goal isn’t just to teach students how the system works, Allan said.

“Hopefully they enjoy it, as well,” Allan said. “When they are 18 [we] hope that they will vote.”

This year’s program has been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with activities adapted for physical distancing and online technology.

Most schools have used traditional paper ballots, but they were also given the option to vote online.

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