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Calgary students cast ballots in mock provincial election

Last Updated Apr 15, 2019 at 10:53 pm MDT

A grade six student at Fish Creek Elementary casts a ballot in the annual Student Vote ahead of the Alberta Provincial Election. Monday, April 15th, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — For Albertans 18 and older, ballots in the provincial election will have to be cast by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

But for thousands of students across the province, they are getting ahead of the game in the hopes of increasing excitement in the democratic process.

The annual Student Vote took place on Monday, with over a thousand schools covering every provincial riding taking part.

Among them are the around 125 grade six students at Fish Creek Elementary in south Calgary.

Grade Six teacher Taryn Day said the students have been scouring platforms and learning information so they can make an intelligent choice.

“It’s tricky as a teacher to try to break it down into kid’s speak, but we’re lucky we found a couple of resources that break down almost into a paragraph jot note of this is what the NDP thinks, or this is what the conservatives think,” said Day.

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The results have also been very good.

“We get a lot of opinions, and it leads to great conversations. We really want kids to make a decision that’s best for them, and sometimes that might be different than what their teachers think or what their parents think.”

But not only did the students play the role of electorates, they also played the role of officials.

Victoria and Cayden were the Deputy Return Officers and said this has been a valuable experience — along with helping them get out of the classroom for a short time.

“We looked at the top four parties, so NDP, UCP, the Liberal Party and the Alberta Party,” said Victoria. “And what their plans are for education, health care, taxes, carbon taxes, and all those categories to see who fits our criteria most.”

“How people vote, and we can see some reason on why they vote,” said Cayden.

This process has also helped them realize priorities might be a bit different for young people compared to their parents, and they may even be better informed.

“I think education and health care are the biggest ones, and also there’s the environment which a lot of kids care about,” said Victoria.

“(Adults) are probably looking more for the energy — for like jobs and stuff. And we’re looking at more of the education stuff,” said Cayden. “My parents don’t even know who to vote for yet.”

Health care and education were identified as the top priorities for all the students, and the hope is that this will keep them engaged in the future.

“They’re really excited for it, and they want to turn 18 and vote, and they want to have conversations with their teachers and their parents about who they vote for, and they’re super curious about everything happening in their world,” said Day.

Day added that the Student Vote results are usually surprisingly accurate, and fit with the actual winner on election day.

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The kids are predicting a victory for Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party, although they are also not counting out the dark horses.

“I think the Alberta Party has some really good policies especially with education,” said Adam. “And I think they could get a lot of votes as well.”

But also, among the excitement about being able to vote in the future and having fun learning about politics, the divisive nature of this particular election has not subsided at the dinner table and the kids are acutely aware of this.

“We’re talking about who to vote for,” said Yi. “My mom is voting for one person, and my dad is voting for another person, and they’re arguing about it.”

The Student Vote results will be tabulated Monday afternoon, and then released on Tuesday along with the actual election results.

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