British Columbia

Students across B.C. cast ballots in mock election

More than 180,000 elementary and high school students are taking part in the 'Student Vote' program, a mock provincial election underway at more than 1,200 schools across B.C.

More than 180,000 elementary and high school students taking part in 'Student Vote' program

Grade 6 student Tiffany Huang casts her ballot at J.W. Sexsmith Elementary in Vancouver as part of the provincewide 'Student Vote' mock election. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

About 60 Grade 5, 6 and 7 students line up outside the polling station at J.W. Sexsmith Elementary in Vancouver.

They quietly file in, take their ballots behind Elections BC privacy screens, scrawl a mark next to one of four Vancouver-Langara candidates' names and drop the ballots into the official box.

It's all part of a huge mock election underway across the province, the 'Student Vote' program. On Monday, more than 180,000 students from 1,221 B.C. elementary and high schools cast their ballots for official candidates running in the 41st B.C. election.

"This is my first time, but I've seen my parents do it before," said Grade 7 student Simran Hans after casting her ballot. "I thought it was really cool. It was kind of interesting that I got a chance to do it myself."

"I think it gets us a lot more interested for the real vote. Because I know that ... like the voting count is getting lower," she said.

Simran Hans, Grade 7, was trying out voting for the first time on Monday. 'I thought it was really cool,' she said. 'There shouldn’t be a reason why we don’t vote.' (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The students did their research to figure out where the local candidates stood on issues that matter to them.

"I looked at what I thought benefited me and my family the most and our community, and then I made my vote," said Hans, adding that her parents don't divulge who they vote for, but the family enjoyed discussions about the election at home.

"I made the decision myself," she said.

'I think I made a good choice'

Classmate Jithusha Vasanthakumar was also casting a ballot for the first time on Monday.

"When my teacher introduced me to this whole voting process, I did have to do some research, because if I'm voting, I need to know about my candidates," said Vasanthakumar.

"It was interesting, because every candidate represented something new. And so, I had to find out what I wanted for my province, so it was a good experience," she said.

Jithusha Vasanthakumar, Grade 7, holds a Vancouver-Langara riding ballot. 'If you’re voting, you have a say in what they do, and if you have some specific point that you want to get out to others, then you should definitely come and vote," she said.

"Before the actual voting, I was definitely debating between two parties, but eventually I came to my final — and I think I made a good choice."

Vasanthakumar's 17-year-old brother was also taking part in the mock election and conversations about the election around the dinner table were interesting, the Grade 7 student said.

"We definitely had different perspectives about who to vote for," she said of her parents.

'It's that simple'

Teacher Dani Conrad helped organize a similar mock vote at J.W. Sexsmith Elementary during the last federal election. She said it helps familiarize the students with the electoral process, so it's not alien when they're old enough to legally vote.

"This is kind of an easy practice. We did some research. They did some activities. They looked into the candidates. We've gone through the voting process, so now they know when they're 18, it's that simple," said Conrad.

The ballot the students cast featured the official candidates who ran in the real B.C. 2017 election. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"I'm always impressed with the students and what they know and what they understand and how quickly they grasp things and their interest and their enthusiasm and how passionate they are about different issues," she said.

For Vasanthakumar, the surprise was how easy the voting process is.

"I thought it was going to be a whole paragraph that you had to write about voting," she said. "I thought it was going to be a longer process, but I was definitely surprised when I found out how short it was."

Even with the long lineup to start, the whole group of students had cast their ballots within about 20 minutes before heading back to class.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker