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Teens get their vote on

Like many other schools across the province, Bishop Alexander Carter participated in Student Vote , a national program that puts on parallel elections for those under the voting age, coinciding with official election periods.
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Sarah Burke, a Grade 10 student at Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School, casts her ballot in the school's Student Vote election. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen.
Like many other schools across the province, Bishop Alexander Carter participated in Student Vote, a national program that puts on parallel elections for those under the voting age, coinciding with official election periods.

“I think students should have the experience before they turn 18,” said Burke, one of about 60 students at the school who participated in the mock vote.

“I think it could be stressful if they don't know what's going on. I think it's good they know about the different parties and how they're going to be voting and how the system works.”

Indeed, young people are often missing at the polls, a trend that Student Vote aims to combat.

Elections Ontario doesn't measure voter demographics by age, but in the last federal election, 37.4 per cent of eligible voters in the 18- to 24-year-old demographic voted, according to Elections Canada.

It isn't just young people who aren't turning up to vote, either. In the 2011 provincial election, just 61.1 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.

That doesn't sit well with Burke.

“They can't complain about what's going on unless they vote,” she said.

Bishop Alexander Carter history teacher Rachel Emond said the program offers students hands-on experience with voting “so it's not scary” when they do it for real when they're an adult.

She said she stresses to her students the importance of voting.

“I keep telling them it might be just a little check mark on a piece of paper, but that's your voice, and there are a lot of countries where that's not allowed,” Emond said.

She said she'll tally up the results of Bishop Alexander Carter's elections and submit them to Student Vote, which compiles provincewide stats of the turnout and results.

Fifteen-year-old Quinn Blanchard, also in Grade 10 at Bishop Alexander Carter, said Student Vote brings a new perspective to young people who might otherwise think politics are “boring and stupid.”

Through the program, he's decided he's a Liberal party supporter. Blanchard said he might even consider volunteering for a candidate in the future, although he'd stop short at running for office himself.

“I wouldn't mind changing a few things, but I don't know if I have the qualities for it,” he said. “I don't like speaking in front of crowds.”

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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