ELECTION 2015: Chilliwack students given lesson in democracy

Chilliwack middle school one of several across Canada set up with mock polling stations this week

The library at Chilliwack middle school was a beehive of activity over lunch breaks this week, as students milled in and out to practice democracy.

The school was one of many across Canada to set up polling stations for mock student elections, through the help of an organization called CIVIX. That group reached out to Humanities teacher Pedro Zullo to get the ball rolling, and he paired up the federal elections with lessons in Canadian civics.

In class, his students learned about rights and responsibilities, the Charter, and the parliamentary democracy system in place in Canada. At lunch, they went to the polls to vote for which party they believe would best represent them.

Zullo expected a good majority of his own students to show up at the polls, but he was pleased on Wednesday to see big numbers showing up to vote.

In total, 557 students would have the chance this week to vote, at CMS alone. Across Canada, 600,000 students in elementary and high school schools are being given the chance to test drive the voting process.

The library looked very similar to a real voting station. Three volunteer students, from the school’s leadership program, helped students register with the help of a school list. They were sent to the three Elections Canada voting booths to mark their choice, and then shown how to drop their ballot in the box.

Now, like the rest of Canada, the students will have to wait until all the polls close on the real election day, Oct. 19, to hear the results.

While large numbers of adults hit the advance polls over the weekend, leading to reports of frustrated workers and voters alike, the mood in the school library was nothing short of boisterous.

As they lined up and mingled, they chatted about who they would be voting for, and how to vote. They worried they didn’t have the right identification, and they weren’t all sure how to use the ballots, the booths or the boxes.

Zullo mingled around the booth, patiently herding the young voters to the proper areas. As each voter dropped their choice in the box, they received non-partisan but very patriotic Canada flags and buttons.

By Friday at the end of the lunch break, their votes will be cast. The results will be tallied by volunteers who have taken an oath to keep the results a secret. While the votes will not be used in the federal election (you must be 18 to vote in Canada), the results are kept confidential as to not sway voters on election day.

The mock elections are seen as a teaching opportunity, but also could offer a glimpse into the minds of future voters.

Sienne Mothus was one of the volunteer workers on Wednesday, and she was looking forward to casting her first ever ballot.

“I think it’s a good idea to get ready to vote,” she said. “It gives you more feelings of responsibility.”

jpeters@theprogress.com