GRAD­ING THE CAN­DI­DATES

Youths get chance to com­pare their choices to par­ents’

Edmonton Journal - - CITY - JANET FRENCH

Stu­dents cast bal­lots dur­ing a Stu­dent Vote mock mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion at H.E. Be­ri­ault Ju­nior High School on Thurs­day. The Ed­mon­ton mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion will be held Mon­day.

Can­di­dates who want Brandon Grat­ton’s vote must ex­plain how they plan to spend Ed­mon­to­ni­ans’ tax dol­lars, and re­con­sider the city’s sep­a­rated bike lanes.

Lucky for them, they’ll have at least six more years to earn his sup­port.

Twelve-year-old Grat­ton is one of thou­sands of stu­dents at 225 Ed­mon­ton schools vot­ing for the first time in a sim­u­lated civic elec­tion.

“I hon­estly was ex­cited. I like the fact that we vote to see if our se­lec­tion would be dif­fer­ent than the par­ents and the adults — to see whether our so­ci­ety would be dif­fer­ent or the same,” Grat­ton said.

Al­though Al­berta stu­dents have pre­vi­ously marked mock bal­lots dur­ing fed­eral and pro­vin­cial elec­tions, it’s the first time the Stu­dent Vote pro­gram has come to Al­berta schools dur­ing a civic elec­tion. There are 934 schools tak­ing part across the prov­ince.

At H. E Be­ri­ault Catholic Ju­nior High School at 8125 167 St. NW Thurs­day morn­ing, Steven Bain’s Grade 8 so­cial stud­ies class had mor­phed the small gym into a polling sta­tion.

Work­ing as deputy re­turn­ing of­fi­cers, the teens pre­pared a voter’s list for each class, checked each stu­dent’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, signed and dis­trib­uted bal­lots, and watched over the polls.

All 420 stu­dents at Be­ri­ault were tasked with study­ing a se­lec­tion of may­oral, coun­cil, and school trustee can­di­dates be­fore mark­ing their bal­lots.

“It re­ally gets kids to think about the can­di­dates, spot is­sues, to have dis­cus­sions, and it lets them know how to be­come an en­gaged, ac­tive, in­formed cit­i­zen,” Bain said.

With voter turnout at 34.5 per cent in Ed­mon­ton’s 2013 civic elec­tion, Stu­dent Vote pre­pares stu­dents to be com­fort­able with how polling sta­tions work be­fore they turn 18, and how to ef­fi­ciently re­search can­di­dates, he said.

Sharone Ab­hi­lash, 13, can’t wait un­til she’s old enough to vote. She likes the pro­posal re­cently en­dorsed by city coun­cil and pub­lic and Catholic school boards to lower the civic vot­ing age in Al­berta to 16.

Adults should also pay more at­ten­tion to school trustee elec­tions, she said.

“We want in­no­va­tion. It’s 2017, and the world needs to change a bit more. Look at the ’90s, and look at 2017. The class­room hasn’t changed. It’s the same thing, in a room, with ta­bles and stu­dents,” Ab­hi­lash said.

When 13-year-old Alexis Skelly re­searched can­di­dates in the ward, she was sur­prised how much work it took to run for of­fice. She said peo­ple who don’t vote have no right to com­plain about elec­tion re­sults.

“This per­son is rep­re­sent­ing you. Don’t you want to have a say in who would rep­re­sent you?”

Stu­dent Vote is run by Toron­to­based char­ity Civix. Chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Lindsay Maz­zucco said bal­lots cast by Ed­mon­ton stu­dents will be com­piled and the re­sults re­leased on Mon­day, shortly af­ter the real polls close at 8 p.m.

LARRY WONG

LARRY WONG

H. E. Be­ri­ault eighth grader Sam Mal­ick, 13, said he was look­ing for can­di­dates who were in favour of ex­pand­ing the city’s LRT net­work and pro­tected bike lanes.

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