They’re too young to elect, but not too young to vote.
On Monday, a day before the Alberta provincial election, students at Kitscoty Junior Senior High School took to the polls for the student vote.
“I’m really passionate about creating active citizenship, so that’s why I’m getting my students involved, and they really got on board with it, so it’s awesome,” said Aleata Harty-Blank, a Grade 9 teacher at the school that helped bring the program to Kitscoty.
Student Vote is the flagship program of CIVIX, a charity that aims to engage young Canadians with their democracy. Kitscoty was one of 876 schools across Alberta that held a student vote.
“You learn what to look for in the people that you’re voting for, and you learn to vote for what you believe in, not just what other people believe in,” said Laney Twerdohlib, a Grade 9 student at the school.
The student vote program combines in-class learning with an authentic voting experience and also encourages students to take the conversation home with them after school.
“You get involved, which can help your parents be more involved. They think that if a student can do it, they can do it,” said Twerdohlib. “So it encourages more people to vote.”
Voter turnout has become an increasing issue over the past several years, as numbers continue to trend downwards. Harty-Blank hopes that initiating political conversations at a younger age will help the next generation of potential voters reverse that trend.
“I think that’s a big part of why student vote has come about, is to try to really enhance voter turnout because it is kind of pathetic,” said Harty-Blank. “Hopefully, I’m instilling that in (students) so that they will be voters when they’re of age, and maybe some of their families will get on board too.”
Results of the student vote were released Tuesday night after the official election polls were closed. The province-wide student vote delivered a majority government to Rachel Notley and the NDP with 56 seats. The Wildrose Party earned 23 student vote seats and the Progressive Conservatives ended up with six. The Alberta Party and Alberta Liberals each earned one student vote seat.
Students in the Vermilion-Lloydminster riding, of which Kitscoty is a part of, voted the Wildrose Party’s Danny Hozack into office.