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Program prepares N.S. students to cast ballots in future elections

GAETZ BROOK, N.S. – Gaetz Brook Junior High is one of many schools across the province taking part in Student Vote, which lets students under the legal voting age cast imaginary ballots as Nova Scotia voters also head to the polls.

Andrew Deveaux, a Grade 8-9 social studies teacher at the school, said students will be discussing all different aspects of democracy.

“We’re also going to be talking about the platforms that the individual parties have and … we are inviting all of the candidates in to speak to students starting next week,” he said.

On Wednesday, students discussed the issues they feel the next provincial government needs to address.

“Power and electricity, and what they’re going to do to change that,” said Colby Everson, a Grade 9 student.

Grade 9 student Emma Towill said she wanted to discuss class size “because some people that might need more help are in the bigger classes and don’t get the help they need.”

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Isaac Grainger, another Grade 9 student, agreed.

“Our class has 30-some-odd people in it, when that’s too much, and the teachers can’t focus on one student at a time” he said.

Deveaux said students have taken a keen interest in talking about election issues.

“Some of the issues they’re concerned with are about the local community — things like taxes were kind of a surprise. [They’re] really big on the environment, and they’re really interested in talking to their local representatives about how things can be done for young people in the community,” said Deveaux.

The program combines in-class learning with an authentic voting experience. Three-hundred and ten students in the school will have the chance to vote on Oct. 1. The votes will be tallied and released the day of the election to see how students would have voted.

Many of the students will be eligible to vote in the next election, and Deveaux is hoping they will choose to do just that.

“Right now voter turnout is only hovering around 50 per cent. We see that’s an issue, and research has shown that it’s because they don’t have enough knowledge,” he said. “So we’re trying to change that in the schools and across the country.”

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