Penticton Secondary School students were sure of who they wanted to send to Victoria, selecting NDP contender Tarik Sayeed as the person to represent Penticton.
That was the result of a student vote Monday held at Pen Hi. Liberal Dan Ashton, elected as MLA in 2013, came in a distant second with 166 votes to Sayeed’s 258. Green candidate Connie Sahlmark came in close behind Ashton, with 159 votes.
Students at Princess Margaret Secondary tended to the Liberal, choosing to re-elect Ashton with 71 votes, and putting Sahlmark in second with 53 votes, and Sayeed 37.
Taken together, the student vote put Sayeed in the lead, with a total of 295 votes. But the contendors were close behind, with Ashton at 237 and Sahlmark at 212.
Mock elections have long been a common way to get the student population engaged in the political process, but over the last few elections, running a parallel vote for under voting-age students has become an established tradition.
For the B.C. 2017 election, 170,238 ballots were cast by students who voiced their political opinions in what organizers are calling the largest-ever student vote campaign. In the province-wide student vote, with 87 electoral districts represented, the NDP would form government with 60 seats. The Green Party would form the Official Opposition with 14 and the Liberals won 12 seats. One independent candidate was elected.
Penticton and Princess Margaret Secondary School students voted on May 8, one day ahead of the May 9 polling day. Maggie vice-principal Sandra Richardson, who helped organize the student vote along with fellow social studies teacher Christy Bevington, said the turnout was strong.
“I was impressed by the number of kids that were keenly engaged,” said Richardson. Over 50 per cent of the student population, representing grades 9 to 12 took part in the election at Maggie.
“They were asking good questions, and much like the general public, there were some students who were highly informed and other students who didn’t even know who the candidates were,” said Richardson. “It is very reflective of what we see in the general population.”
Richardson, who also teaches social studies, said not much has changed over the years with the student parallel elections.
“Some of the kids, especially the ones that have just turned 18, voting in their first election, they are really excited to go and vote, and many already have,” said Richardson.
“I think it depends on the family they are coming form, the conversations they are having at home and if the parents value that political dialogue and being an engaged citizen, then the students tend to value that as well.”
Richardson said students want to hear what they candidates say on the issue they are concerned and passionate about, like the environment and jobs.
“They also want to be respected by their candidates and have their voices heard, and echoed in some of the views of the candidates,” said Richardson.
A total of 1,221 schools registered to participate in Student Vote BC 2017, representing all 87 electoral districts. Overall results will be released after official polls close on May 9.