Middle School boys joined approximately 150,000 students in Ontario to participate in the municipal Student Vote mock election in October. Over several weeks, students researched and evaluated candidate platforms to cast their ballots as informed voters.
The mock election was part of a new Middle School course called Canadian and World Citizenship, which teaches students how to be active and informed citizens. “The student volunteers sat at polling stations, took people’s names, handled voter registration cards and ballots,” says Middle School teacher Nadine Nunes. “We made the process as authentic as possible so that when the students are able to vote in a real election, they can feel comfortable and they’ll have done some research in advance.”
“Students found it really interesting that many candidates didn’t have much of a platform,” says Nunes. “Some had goals but didn’t indicate how they would achieve them, which frustrated the students. A lot of our conversation was around ‘What does that tell you about this person? How does that help you decide whether you’ll vote for them?’
One student emailed a candidate who had a website and platform. A week went by and he never got a response, so he decided to call. When the candidate answered, the student asked him to explain how he would fulfill his platform promises. “And then the candidate said ‘I have to go,’ and hung up,” says Nunes. “We discussed how this informed him about the candidate, and how he had just deflected the questions. ‘What does that tell you about this person and their character?’”
The mock election reflected the real-world results, with John Tory winning 41% of the student votes. Candidate Gil Penalosa won a slightly larger percentage of mock votes (21%) versus real-world votes (18%). Nunes attributes this small shift to the research that the students had conducted in class and to the candidate’s focus on environmentalism, which resonated with students.