How Ontario would look if students could vote
By Jenn Watt
Published June 12, 2018
Local students participated in the provincial election last week, even if they weren’t yet 18.
Student Vote Ontario signed up more than 2,800 schools across the province to run mock elections with voting booths and ballot boxes where they could vote for one of the riding’s candidates.
After the election, they revealed the results.
Across the province, participating students would have elected an NDP government with more than 32 per cent of the popular vote, equating to 66 seats. The PCs came in second with nearly 27 per cent of the vote, or 45 seats. The Liberals received almost 19 per cent of the vote, or 11 seats.
In the riding, students voted to send Laurie Scott, PC candidate and incumbent, to Queen’s Park with nearly 32 per cent of the vote. The NDP’s Zac Miller came in second with almost 27 per cent.
In their election, J.D. Hodgson Elementary School students chose NDP candidate Zac Miller with 40 per cent of the vote. Liberal candidate Brooklynne Cramp-Waldinsperger received 20 per cent and PC Laurie Scott (who won the riding in the general election) received just more than 13 per cent of the vote.
Haliburton Highlands Secondary School also chose the NDP in their election, with 55 votes for Miller. The PC party received 28 votes, Liberals 15. In total, 120 ballots were cast with no spoiled ballots.
At JDHES, students researched the candidates and put together a chart about the parties’ platforms, which was shared between classes.
Teacher Ben Loucks said about half of the students in his class had an interest in what was going on with the election before the lessons, but once things were framed in practical terms, there was much more engagement.
The Grade 5/6 curriculum includes the political system and how it works, which meant his students found out about the first past the post system used in Ontario.
He said as the students learned about the parties’ positions on issues, he encouraged them to look beyond him as the teacher or what they saw on television to seek out information and form their own opinions.
Rachael Fischer, a Grade 6 student and poll clerk in the Student Vote election, said she learned about what the parties had to say on education, dental care and taxes.
Rachael said her teacher told her to make a tally of the good points of each party and whichever one came out with the most points could be the one to vote for. She said when she turns 18 she will likely vote, as long as the candidates have something to offer her.
Teacher Miranda Marles organized the voting process for the school and said that her Grade 6 class was interested in the process and had been wondering about the election signs that popped up around the Highlands over the last few weeks.
“The engagement level was amazing. They were excited to have their voice heard,” she said.
Daimon Colliver, a Grade 6 student, said he had learned about the issues in class and was particularly interested in health care. Often it takes too long for people to receive care, he said, and solving that issue informed his vote.
Kaeden Barnett, Grade 5, said education was important and that the province should keep the EQAO standardized testing because it helps teachers with their jobs and kids with learning.
Tanisha Coates, Grade 6, said after doing reading on the issues, she worried about safe injection sites. She thought there might be people who needed that service and she wanted to vote for a party that would keep them.
While JDHES conducted their vote class by class through the lobby of the school, at HHSS, the students were able to vote if they chose to, with polls set up in the lobby before the first class and at lunch.
Vanessa Prentice’s Grade 10 civics class organized the voting stations and made sure there was no ballot stuffing. Posters were created with a summary of the parties, she said.
At first, not all students in her class were informed about the candidates, but she said after doing a couple of days of instruction, they developed opinions on what was important to them in the election.
Grade 9 students Bence Suranyi and Sam Hoenow voted in the election. Bence said he was looking for change, while Sam said he was particularly interested in the minimum wage.
Grade 10 student Hailey Brisco said she felt confident in casting her ballot after learning more about the parties in her class. However, without the benefit of a civics teacher, many students don’t pay attention. She said if there was more emphasis on what the parties stand for, rather than focusing on personalities or the partisan side of the race, it would help people make more informed decisions.
Student Vote Ontario was held across the province from June 4 to 6 and included more than 280,000 students.