Student Vote 2004 makes itself heard in
By Amanda Taccone
Student Vote 2004 Youthbeat
June 9, 2004
Voices rang out in the grand hall at Sacred Heart Catholic
High School in Newmarket, Ontario, at lunch break Wednesday.
"Exercise your democratic right to vote!"
"Come on and vote!"
This is Student Vote 2004 in action. There are tour tables, one for each
grade level, staffed by students trying to get their peers to cast their
ballots in a mock election. They've got a good location. Students can't
get to the cafeteria without passing at least two of the tables, where
a dozen students ask if they've voted.
|Sacred Heart School, Newmarket
"There are 1,200 students and we're trying to get all of them to vote,"
says 17 year-old Ashley Herridge, the returning officer for her school.
Herridge hopes that getting people used to voting earlier will encourage
them to vote in the future. "After all," she says, "it could be one deciding
vote that puts someone in office."
That's the message her teacher, James Castronovo, hopes
students will take away from this experience. As Sacred Heart's politics
and law teacher, he's the driving force behind bringing Student Vote 2004
to the school. He's been organizing political debates since 1993, and
on June 2 the candidates in the Newmarket-Aurora riding took their turn
at a debate packed with students, with Belinda Stronach (Conservative),
Ed Chudak (NDP), Martha Hall Findlay (Liberal) and Dorian Baxter (Progressive
Canadian) in attendance.
Castronovo says, "Candidate debates are a good way to follow-up [classes
on politics], to acquaint students with the issues and policies and help
them get active in the process...the only way to turn [youth apathy] around
is to create interest."
Jennifer Snowdon and Alexandra Hubbard, both 16 and
in Grade 10, have just voted. Snowdon says events like the debate and
Student Vote 2004 "help people get involved." Hubbard agrees, adding,
"We know how important this is. People have a lot of concerns in life,
and you have to make a choice because of the things you care about."
Steve Goldby, 17, is the captain of the team trying to get Grade 11 students
to vote. He hopes that his fellow students will want to vote so that they
can express their opinions on the things that matter. "It's important,"
Goldby says. "A lot of young people have a problem with adults getting
what they want, while young people aren't getting what they need."
Goldby believes that for many students, financial issues are at the top
of their lists, especially for those graduating and heading off to university
or college in September. But not everyone at the polls is as sold on casting
their ballots. Annie Robinson and Lisa Decchia are both 14, and neither
is enthusiastic about having the chance to vote. Decchia nods as Robinson
says, "I don't think we should be able to vote, we haven't experienced
enough to make the right decision."
Robinson and Decchia agree that a lot of young people
don't vote mainly because, like themselves, they don't know enough about
the issues or how to get involved, but they think that at least Student
Vote 2004 is a good introduction to the process, even though they don't
think their vote will make any difference.
Castronovo disagrees. He hopes that releasing the results
to the community, especially if they are radically different from the
results in the Newmarket-Aurora riding on election day, will "demonstrate
that there is a conflict between young people and the rest of the electorate."
Ultimately, that's the point of Student Vote 2004. It can prove that
youth aren't apathetic, just uniformed, and unwilling to make a decision
based on incomplete information. It can also get them on track, so they
can make an informed decision in the future.
Robinson, for one, says she will make sure she gets informed when it's
her time to vote for real.
The Newmarket results will be released with the rest of the Student Vote
results on election night here at cbc.ca/canadavotes.