High schools across the country are proving politics matter to youth, even with young voters largely absent from the polls in the past.
A national student vote, organized by CIVIX, is being held locally at Carlton High School.
Joel Morin, a grade 12 student at Carlton, said he definitely supports the idea.
“It’s very important for making youth feel like they’re involved in the process, because people do so much better at something if they feel involved and if they feel they have a stake,” said Morin. “With this, we’re showing them they do.”
He also stressed the importance of getting youth in a “mode where they see voting as an obligation and a responsibility.”
With the youth-voter turnout declining, Morin said he’s concerned.
“Anything we can do to reverse that trend is a good thing,” he said.
Since many 18-year-olds were still in elementary school during the last federal election, their interest in politics is now on the map.
“A lot of my friends are talking about it a lot more, and not just in sort of a funny sense, they are aware of the issues,” said Morin. “On one level, it’s very encouraging to see that, but on the other hand you want to see more people getting involved and aware and engaged with the election.”
Morin being 18 himself will have the chance to vote for the first time on Oct. 19, something he said he’s looking forward to.
“Just to be able to go register makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger and you can have an impact,” he said.
For those of his peers who consider themselves clueless when it comes to politics, Morin encourages them to get informed.
“The best thing you can do is listen to what the local candidates are saying, you can try and get past the negativity and the stuff that is thrown around on TV by the major parties and you can really just focus on what they’re saying—on what they want to do, on what they’re plans are for the country and what their values are,” said Morin.
Lenae Witherow, 16, will be working as an information officer on the day of the Federal Election.
“I’m pretty excited to see the actual voting happen,” she said.
For her, the student vote is the only one she’ll be able to participate in this time around.
“I really like the idea of the students voting…we can see the difference between what we think and what our parents and other adults think,” said Witherow.
She said in the past, youth have turned away from voting for good reason.
“Most politicians don’t actually care about the younger vote, that’s usually due to the low voter turnout rate for the 18 to 30 bracket so they aim more to 45 plus and that’s basically it.
“I know a lot of parents are more conservative than their kids. Because of the marijuana policies that the Liberal and NDP are introducing, there definitely is going to be a different vote.
Kelly Klassen, a social-science teacher at Carlton, has been part of organizing the student vote at the school.
“It’s a good chance to show the kids the process of an election, what it’s like. It takes away some of the fear they might have about voting,” said Klassen. “They can see it’s fairly easy, it doesn’t take a lot of time and your voice does matter.”
Because it’s an election year, Klassen said most social studies classes spent more time looking at the issues, watching current events and preparing for the vote.
“It’s a teachable moment in the sense they’re learning about the democratic process, they’re learning about party ideology and the choices they can make in a democracy.”
A few of Klassen’s students, like Morin, are old enough to vote or are getting involved in the election in other ways.
“The kids I’ve talked to here are excited,” said Klassen. “We have 24 kids working for Elections Canada this year.
“Hopefully that shows there’s a change and there will be more youth voting.”
This year, the program has about 7,700 schools participating across the country.
“I see it influencing future votes,” said Klassen. “Last election, we did the same thing so I’m hoping the students that participated here are actually voting this time around, sort of like a domino effect.”
Results of the CIVIX student vote will be announced on Oct. 20.
On Twitter: @alex_soloducha
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