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Their X may not count, but the lesson will

O’Donel High School Level III students (from left) Sarah Walsh, Beth Brocklehurst, Nathan James and Olivia Lawrence are among the 200 students at the school and 10,000 provincewide who are participating in Student Vote Newfoundland and Labrador 2019 in conjunction with today’s provincial election.
O’Donel High School Level III students (from left) Sarah Walsh, Beth Brocklehurst, Nathan James and Olivia Lawrence are among the 200 students at the school and 10,000 provincewide who are participating in Student Vote Newfoundland and Labrador 2019 in conjunction with today’s provincial election. - Rosie Mullaley

About 200 students participating in Student Vote project in conjunction with today’s provincial election

MOUNT PEARL, N.L. —

The tables have been arranged, the ballots with candidates' names printed and the voter boxes, with slots at the top, assembled.

It’s election day in the province, but this is not an official polling station.

Most of those marking an X at this building today are too young to vote, and the results won't count in choosing which party will form the government.

But they’ll still go through the process — which matters to the students, including those at O’Donel High School in Mount Pearl, as they’ll be getting their first taste of what it’s like to be an official voter.

“I didn’t really know much about any of the voting process before,” Level III Olivia Lawrence said Wednesday during an interview with other students at O’Donel. “It was cool to learn about it all. We really got a better understanding about what to do.”

She’s one of 10,000 students across the province — close to 200 Level II and Level III students at O’Donel — participating today in Student Vote Newfoundland and Labrador 2019, representing all 40 provincial electoral districts.

The project is an initiative of CIVIX, a national civic education charity focused on developing the habits of active and informed citizenship among young people.

In today’s Student Vote, students will also take on the roles of election officers and co-ordinate the voting process for their peers.

CIVIX will tabulate the results by electoral district and release them publicly following the close of polls (8 pm NT).

The Student Vote project for the 2019 Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election was made possible by the Government of Canada.

Olivia — along with fellow Level III students Sarah Walsh, Beth Brocklehurst and Nathan James — all agree voting is a valuable right, one which they’re glad to learn about.

“It’s important to know what’s happening with our government and why we have democracy,” Sarah said.

Beth added, “When you look at (the candidates’) perspectives, some of us agree on some aspects and some of us disagree on others.”

O’Donel students will cast their votes between the four candidates in the Mount Pearl-Southland district — incumbent Paul Lane (Independent), Hasan Hai (Liberal), Gillian Pearson (PC) or David Brake (NDP).

Nathan said everyone should care who’s elected to government.

“The people chosen are going to be in for the next four years,” he said. “It matters to us because it impacts students’ futures in a lot of ways.”

Jill Kennedy, head of the school’s social studies department, said the school wanted to participate this year because a large component of its new social studies program centres on democracy and the principles of democracy — learning about civil engagement, how the voting system works, the importance of the rule of law and government.

“It’s less about the issues (in the election) and more about teaching them how to find out what they need to know, and then giving them the tools they need to be able to dissect that information and make choices, irrespective of what those choices may be,” Kennedy said.

Jackie Rocket, who teaches social studies at O’Donel, said her students are enjoying discussions about the importance of voting, knowing their rights as Canadian citizens, how the political parties are set up, the voting system and how to bring about change.

“For some of them, this is their introduction to voting, elections and democracy,” said Rocket, who added the topic is eye-opening for the teenagers.

“For a lot of them, this is brand new information. … Learning about the process is a worthwhile piece because they are the next generation of voters.”

Beth and Sarah, both 18, will also get to cast an official ballot in the provincial election.

“I’m excited,” Beth said. “It’s nice to know the different aspects of (the voting process) instead of just going in blind, not knowing what to do.”

Whatever the outcome of their school voting, students all agree young voices matter.

“We hope we’ll be heard,” Sarah said. “That’s what we go in with — the hope that we can make a difference.”

rosiemullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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