If the recent student federal election run by L.V. Rogers Grade 12 student Amelia Martzke was the one that counted, the New Democrats would likely form a majority government.
There were 403 votes cast, resulting in an NDP win with 57.6 per cent of the vote. The Greens came next with 20.8 per cent, followed by the Liberals with 14.8 and the Conservatives with 6.7.
Martzke said she is pleased with the turnout but, “I had no way of ballparking how many we would get. I had no idea.”
She had sign-up sheets to avoid repeat voting and to track the age, grade, and school of each voter. Anyone 18 or under was eligible to vote.
The student vote was not an LVR project — Martzke undertook it on her own. She and several volunteers had ballot boxes at LVR and at Expressions Café downtown, and she gave talks at Wildflower School and Trafalgar about the election process. Some students at those schools cast ballots also.
How closely these results predict the results of the “real” upcoming election is hard to say, but the idea that students vote more left-wing than their parents is “a popular misconception — except in BC,” says Dan Allan of studentvote.ca, a national organization that helps schools with student elections.
He says votes cast by students in 301 ridings in the 2011 federal election mirrored the actual adult vote quite closely.
“Students elected a Conservative minority with an NDP opposition, and the Liberals lost lots of seats. The seat counts were almost the same.”
Allan says his organization has been running student elections provincially and federally since 2004 and has about 7,500 schools signed up across all federal ridings for this election.
He says student votes in BC are different from the rest of the country in one notable way.
“BC is the one province where students vote more left,” he says. “Otherwise, Canada-wide results of student vote are similar to adults.”
But he doesn’t think students are simply copying their parents’ political preferences.
“The misconception is that a lot of people say, ‘Oh, they are just voting how their parents are telling them to.’ But I think they are taking in the same ads and news that their parents are, and coming to their own conclusions.”
Martzke says she is not surprised at the NDP-Green student vote win in Nelson.
“Living in Nelson where the community as a whole is NDP or Green, kids might have the influence of what their parents voted for. Those parties appeal more to what youth are interested in — for example, climate change, public education or university tuition.
“Youth have different values than older people. I think as people grow older, the things that impacted them earlier change. Things that affect youth like university, or finding a new job, do not affect older people who have retired. Youth just are coming out into the world are trying to figure things out, so everything is new for us. Older people have done the same thing over and over. Youth are exploring more.”
Martzke talked enthusiastically about her visit to a class of about 30 Grade 7 to 9 students at Wildflower School.
“Their teacher said they had been doing mock debates. I posed the question why it is important for youth to vote, and got great responses and a dynamic discussion. I was surprised by their knowledge and some of them were so well spoken about it, had well formulated ideas, and felt comfortable sharing them.”
Why do younger people tend not to vote?
“They are nervous,” said Martzke. “A lot do care about it, but it seems like a gruelling process to learn. It is daunting for them.”
Allen agrees and says his organization is trying to counter their fear of voting “by giving them a first-hand experience. The approach we take is to get them interested and also show them voting is not this tough, frightening thing. It is just a basic task that you get yourself knowledgeable about. We try to show them how.”