By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
In classrooms all throughout Alberta, numerous schools participated in the Student Vote Program.
The program is a part of CIVIX, a charity geared toward initiatives which strengthen democracy through civic education. CIVIX is registered charity and is non-partisan. Support from Elections Alberta, the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Government of Canada made Student Vote Alberta 2023 possible.
Student Vote is a practical civic education program which offers students not yet of voting age the opportunity to partake in active and informed citizenship, and practice casting ballots for official candidates through a mock election held at participating schools.
Schools that participate are provided with non-partisan educational material to educate on government and the election process, and facilitate conversation around the candidates and pertinent issues. Student Vote Day is conducted using voting screens, ballot boxes, and ballots that are provided.
More than 1,300 schools are registered to participate in the 2023 Student Vote Alberta, with representation from all 87 electoral divisions in the province. About 200,000 elementary and secondary school pupils are expected to cast Student Vote ballots before the day’s end on May 29.
“The importance of imparting civic literacy and promoting democratic participation has become increasingly urgent in the present times,” said CIVIX CEO Lindsay Mazzucco. “Our gratitude goes to the teachers who are championing this program in their schools and the support extended to us by Elections Alberta, the Alberta Teacher’s Association, the Government of Canada, and all our other partners for making this initiative a reality.”
Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teacher’s Association (ATA) said, “Student Vote makes a lot of curricular learning very tangible for students. Outside of election time students will learn about federal/provincial/municipal powers and responsibilities in a conceptual way. During an election they get to see and discuss what that might mean for them and their families. It really drives home the fact that voting can make a difference in peoples’ lives. After the election, teachers indicate high levels of satisfaction (99 per cent) and comment that they will do the program again as it engages students really well. Alberta has the highest level of participation in the Student Vote program.”
Results from Student Vote Alberta will be counted and made public following the end of the Election Day. The results will comprise the constituent count and an estimation of the number of votes cast for each party, totals by electoral division and an accounting of individual school tallies.
With respect to the long-term impact of students participating in the student vote program, Schilling said, “Hopefully they retain some of what they learned, including the fact that elections can be interesting and even exciting. For some students it’s kind of like falling in love with watching a sport: it lights a spark. Students often say after the program/election is over that it is their responsibility to vote in elections. Students also noted that they engage their families in conversation around the election as well and that it’s a great way to become informed about politics. In past elections, student vote has been astonishingly predictive to the outcome of the election.”