Education
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Yellowknife

Unable to vote for real, YK students try dummy run at school


Julia is 14, she's Indigenous, she lives in Yellowknife, and she's going to be pretty furious if you don't bother voting on Monday.

With classmate Natasha, Julia ran a polling station at Yellowknife's St Pat's high school on Friday as hundreds of students took part in a mock federal election – with all five real NWT candidates' names on the ballot.

Part of an exercise devised by Elections Canada, the aim is to familiarize students with voting and energize them to get out and do it in future.

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The 18-24 age bracket is the one least likely to vote in a Canadian federal election. In 2011, just 39 percent of Canada's youngest electors bothered to cast a ballot. Four years later that leapt to 57 percent – the biggest positive increase Elections Canada had ever seen for the age group – but the 2015 election captured so many voters' attention that 18-24 was still the group with the lowest participation.

As dozens of students lined up at their polling station, Natasha and Julia said they couldn't understand why anyone would decide not to vote.

"It was cool. It was different," said Julia, describing the process of voting in the mock election. "You got to take the paper and look at all the people, and it felt very grown-up and mature."

She said she prioritized the party over the individual name on the ballot – "the party platform is super-important to me" – but added she "liked the representative" she voted for, too.

Told that voters aged 18 to 24 are the least likely to show up, Julia said: "I'm Indigenous, and Indigenous people had to fight for a long time to get their vote. I think it's always important to go vote. Your opinion will get represented, and it's important to have a say."

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Having cast her vote, Natasha added: "I'm very frustrated. In my class, I'm very politically active, very vocally active in what I say. It makes me upset and frustrated that people who actually are able to vote, won't.

"For me, it was a very easy decision. I knew exactly who I was going to vote for and I did my research before I voted."

A St Pat's high school student casts a vote in a mock federal election on October 18, 2019

Natasha, left, and Julia watch a student voter cast a ballot. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

As she spoke, a classmate named Dylan passed by, high-fiving other students in the school's atrium.

"It feels so good to vote," Dylan, who is 14, exclaimed, adding he was urging relatives at home to get out and do the same – for real. "You don't get to do it that much," he said.

The school won't report the final voting tally among students until polls close. Listen out for the result after 7:30pm on Cabin Radio's federal election broadcast.

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