In a mock provincial election at Skeena Middle School, students voted in favour of NDP candidate Bruce Bidgood for the Skeena riding.
Out of the 516 students in the school, 161 students voted for NDP Bidgood, 95 for Liberal Ellis Ross, and 46 for Merv Richie of the Land Air and Water Party. A total of 24 ballots were spoiled and 190 students chose not to vote.
That means voter turnout at Skeena was 63 per cent.
A total of 13 schools participated in the student vote in the Skeena riding, with the results leaning more heavily in favour of Bidgood, who received 50 per cent of the votes. Ross got 39 per cent of the student vote in the riding, and 11 per cent went to Merv Richie.
Skeena Grade 8 teacher Lissa Waite said she felt the mock election went well.
It was rewarding to see older students, who helped run previous mock elections, come and vote on their free time during lunch, said Waite.
“They were like, ‘I knew I had to vote,’” Waite recalled, adding that she was pleased because ultimately their goal with the mock election is to instill the importance of voting into students.
“We’re hoping that this is setting a precedent,” she said, “because in the next election they will be of age to vote.”
This is the fourth time Waite has organized the student vote at Skeena, well supported with all the official resources from Civix Canada, a charity aimed at building Canadian citizenship.
The student vote was run across the province, and this year’s results leaned heavily in favour of the NDP. Students gave NDP 60 seats, Green 14 seats, BC Liberals 12 seats and one seat to independents. That included nearly 164,000 valid student votes, and just over 6,300 rejected votes from students across B.C.
Describing how the student vote was done at Skeena, Waite said her Grade 8 students did much of the ground work, running the polls and counting the ballots after the students voted Monday morning, May 8.
Several teachers brought their students to the mock polls during class time, and the stations were kept open during lunch hour for students from classes whose teachers didn’t bring them to vote.
For Waite, the mock election is the climax of what has been a month of preparation, teaching about democracy, how elections work, and the importance of voting.
She encouraged students to bring in news articles about political issues, which they discussed in class, and she also organized a day for a large percentage of the school to hear from candidates Ross and Bidgood at the school.
The aim is “to encourage students to become community members who are going to go out and vote in the future,” said Waite, adding that is great how many students are engaged in the discussions.
“It’s really hard to engage kids these days,” Waite said, “but [the election] is real, this is going on. Their parents are able to talk with them about it… this has impact on their lives and they are much more engaged from the get go.”
She says there are some students who normally don’t actively participate but are very engaged in the discussions about the issues of society impacted by government and voting.
“They have a lot of things to say and they are given a platform to say [them].”
Waite has also noticed a ripple effect from the student vote.
She says students share about family discussions around election issues, and has even heard of parents being challenged by the students to vote for the first time.
Now that the election is past, Waite says she also reminds students that though voting is an important step, engagement can stretch beyond the polls.
“After tonight, the job’s not done. We’ve got four years of somebody in an office in Terrace that is there to fight for us, and we need to work with them,” said Waite.