People in Saskatchewan have to wait until April 4 to cast their ballot in the provincial election, but on Wednesday, thousands of elementary and high school students voted for who they would want to lead the province come election day.
A polling officer sits at the front of a classroom at St. Angela Elementary School in Saskatoon; behind him is a whiteboard containing the names of the provincial party leaders. Official election voting booths are set up on a few round tables, shielding students as they participate in the Student Vote program taking place across Saskatchewan over the next two days.
Although they wouldn’t reveal who they voted for, some kids said they did learn about the political process before making their decision.
“Just the different rights that we have and how some people don’t have those rights and how it’s our responsibility to vote,” Emily, a Grade 7 student, said.
“I actually like politics. I think it was interesting,” another Grade 7 student, Taliah, said.
Social studies teacher, Olya Kowaluk, helped organize the voting process at her school, where students had previously voted during the recent federal election. She said the younger grades are usually intrigued by the process while the older grades are more interested in what the parties have to offer.
Those students often have political discussions at home and then present those ideas in the classroom, Kowaluk said.
“So a lot of times the children do vote like their parents do, but we’re trying to instill in them that they have their voice and they have their opinions.”
Kowaluk said she doesn’t explicitly lay out what the parties stand for but instead, poses questions and encourages students to explore the answers on their own.
She believes it’s a crucial step in getting them politically engaged while they’re young.
“If we instill in them that it’s not a scary process, that it’s our right and it’s our responsibility, then we hope that carries on when they are 18 and eligible to vote.”
In total, 20,000 students will cast a ballot in Student Votes Saskatchewan. The children at St. Angela School will gather in the gymnasium when the results of the province-wide mock election are released on April 4.