Canada at the Polls!
5. English and Democracy: An Advanced Scenario for Older Students
A Complete Electoral Campaign
This scenario is more complex than the two in the previous sections and involves carrying out most of the steps in a federal election, including an election campaign, in order to develop students' language skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking in English.
The simulation follows the electoral process from the calling of the election until polling day. Participants have the opportunity to experience all aspects of a real campaign: nomination of candidates, creation of an organizing committee, interaction with the media, partisan advertising, "campaigning" and election day.
Staging the election simulation
An election involves choosing among several candidates and, generally, among several political parties. In the interests of efficiency, we suggest a maximum of three candidates. The class is then divided into three groups, each representing a different party.
Each of the groups appoints one student who leaves the group to perform certain duties. Two of the students are designated poll clerk and deputy returning officer respectively. A third acts as a journalist and moderates the speeches and, if need be, the press conference. The group members without any specific positions may join the communications or production group, according to their interests.
Instructions to group members
The members of each group must:
- appoint a campaign manager, who becomes the group leader
- choose a name for their group, which becomes the party name (the name can be real or fictitious)
- nominate a candidate (nominated by … / seconded by …)
and, depending on the time available:
- conduct research to develop an election platform based on the ideology chosen by the party, their vision of Canada or current issues
- appoint a communications director, a production director and one representative per candidate
The returning officer is responsible notably for drawing up the voters list, on which should appear the names of all qualified electors (in a real election, the list is produced from data in the National Register of Electors – in this case, it may be the class list or the list of group members); for producing the ballot papers on which appear the names of candidates in alphabetical order by family name with the party name below that of each candidate; and for training election officers.
The deputy returning officer is responsible for checking each elector's ID, giving a ballot paper to each elector during the voting and for counting the votes (see details).
The poll clerk is responsible for the voters list during the voting and for adding up the ballots counted by the deputy returning officer (see details).
The candidate exercises leadership in his team, gives speeches and answers questions at the press conference.
The campaign manager organizes the campaign and coordinates canvassing.
The communications director establishes the campaign strategy, plans how the candidate's image will be presented, writes copy for slogans, speeches, flyers, posters, scripts and all other promotional material.
The production director coordinates the production of promotional material (flyers, posters, etc.), looks after distributing advertising and raises funds if necessary.
The candidate's representative serves as an observer at the polling station on election day during the voting and the counting of the ballots.
Role of journalists
Journalists have the responsibility to inform. Each journalist represents a different medium (print, radio, television, online, etc.).
The journalists are responsible for interviewing the candidates and for organizing speeches by candidates and press conferences. They visit the political parties and conduct interviews. They write articles, report news and can also interact with the real media.
Description of the Scenario
The returning officer prepares the voters list (use your group list to draw up the voters list), trains the poll clerk and deputy returning officer, receives the nomination papers and ensures that the ballots are printed and the polling station is set up.
Each campaign manager presents his candidate to the returning officer, stating the party's name, either orally or by filling out the nomination papers.
The electoral campaign begins immediately afterwards: the posters are put up, flyers distributed, etc. This is the time for "campaigning."
This is also the time for the public to gather information and for the journalists to inform the public. Journalists interview each political party and host the candidates’ speeches and the press conference following the speeches.
After the press conference, the returning officer announces that the election campaign is over, reminds people about the secrecy of the vote and stresses the importance of exercising the right to vote.
The voting procedure and counting the vote
Voting itself and counting the ballots are the same as in Section 4, Let's Hold an Election.
Special cases and situation cards
With more advanced groups, you can explore more complex situations: for example, electors who are unable to vote alone due to physical disabilities, or people who arrive to vote although their names are not on the voters list.
Included in the kit are four situation cards which you can hand out to four electors, who must not reveal their contents until they arrive at the polling station. Each card describes a special situation, which the election officers must resolve at the polling station. The texts of oaths related to these situations can be found in the Appendix.
Activities for Learning English
An election simulation can be a very effective part of a strategy to develop language skills among students (reading, listening, writing and communicating in English), while raising awareness of the electoral process. An election campaign provides many opportunities to use such skills, as shown below.
- writing speeches, notes, articles
- writing canvassing material to win votes (why should people vote for a certain candidate)
- writing a letter to raise funds
- writing a script for a video or a press conference
- writing slogans and texts for posters
- writing questions for journalists at the press conference, for the news, interviews, articles, etc.
This includes memorizing prepared texts and oral presentations:
- candidates – speeches, press conferences (answering questions)
- journalists – oral reports on the campaign, announcing results on television, etc.
- election workers – memorizing prepared texts to canvass voters
- actors – speaking the text for a videotape, if applicable