Remember when I mentioned the lack of engagement among students with the electoral process? It seems that not all is lost. Today I ran into a good friend of mine who got a new job – she works for Student Vote, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the habits of democratic citizenship among young Canadians. Whenever there are Canadian elections, the organization work with affiliated schools across the country (there are currently over 4,000 schools in the program) so they can duplicate the entire election process in the schools. Students learn about the parties, candidates, debates, etc, and Student Vote sets up election booths so that the students can vote in a parallel election. The results are announced on CBC, on the night of the elections.
Here’s a blurb from their site:
In 2003, a young couple set out against the odds to reverse the trend of declining youth voter turnout – with a basic idea:
Practice makes perfect.
If we want young people to vote, why not give them a chance to practice first?
The Student Vote parallel election initiative was designed to give students an opportunity to develop and practice the habits of democratic citizenship during official election campaigns.
The initiative was designed for students to discuss and deliberate the current issues, parties and candidates in class and with family and friends. The exercise would culminate in an authentic voting experience where students voted on the real candidates.
In the fall of 2003, a largely volunteer team launched their trial program to coincide with the Ontario provincial election. More than 1000 schools registered to participate; received learning materials, electoral supplies and campaign support. Over the course of the campaign, hundreds of candidate debates took place and political discussion was on the menu at dinner tables across the province.
On October 2nd, students took on the roles of election officials and organized a vote in their school on the candidates running in their electoral district.
More than 335,000 Ontario students cast a ballot from all 103 electoral districts.
The Student Vote results were reported live on CBC television on Election Night and printed in twenty regional daily newspapers the following day.
Since 2003, more than 1.5 million students have participated in Student Vote’s flagship parallel election project.
Student Vote is also responsible for pioneering civic engagement exercises that have occurred outside of elections.
Isn’t it cool?