Canada at the Polls!
4. LET'S HOLD AN ELECTION: AN INTERMEDIATE SCENARIO FOR EVERYONE
An Overview of the Electoral Process
This section presents an average scenario suitable for young people of all ages and at all levels. Let's Hold an Election is adaptable according to your needs and is midway between Choosing an Outing , described in the previous section, and the more complex scenario, English and Democracy , described in the next section.
The purpose of this average scenario is to give young people an overview of the electoral process, and especially of the voting procedure on election day. The activity normally lasts for 45 to 75 minutes, but can be longer, depending on group interest and time available.
Regardless of the scenario used, it must be consistent with a teaching approach in order to maximize the educational benefits. The sections The ABCs of Elections and Choosing an Outing suggest ways to convey the fundamental principles of elections to young people, at various stages of the activity, and to ensure afterwards that they have integrated the new knowledge. The content of these sections also applies to the present scenario.
Begin by setting up the polling station. To be more realistic, you can order material. Be sure to put a pencil behind the voting screen. We suggest setting up one polling station per class or group of 20 to 30 people. You might want to set up another polling station if you have limited time and/or there are more than 35 people.
Assemble the ballot box without applying the seals to the top, so the poll clerk and candidates' representatives can make sure it is empty. Once the poll clerk and candidates' representatives have confirmed that it is empty, the deputy returning officer can close the box and affix the final seals.
At this stage, you can tell the group about the ballots: the candidates are listed in alphabetical order by family name with the party name below that of the candidate; electors must make an acceptable mark with the pencil provided (any clear mark that does not identify the elector); folding the ballot, etc. You could also explain that a control number is written on the back of the stub that remains in the ballot booklet and on the back of the counterfoil to make sure that the ballot given to the elector by the deputy returning officer is the same one returned, and that the counterfoils are removed and thrown out to maintain the secrecy of the vote.
Have the students make up their own piece of identification showing their name and grade/class number.
Steps to Follow
Divide the young participants into three groups, representing three political parties. Each group should appoint a candidate, find a name and make an election poster (allow at least 10 minutes to make the poster). During that time, if you do not already have a class list, circulate a blank sheet of paper for the students to write down their names; this will be the voters list.
Each candidate should then make a brief speech. Depending on the time available, this step can be longer or shorter. If you wish, you may also allow a period for a short press conference or for questions.
Have the deputy returning officer and poll clerk swear the oath. Explain the role of each of them to the group.
Ask the deputy returning officer to show everyone that the ballot box is empty. The deputy returning officer then closes and seals the box.
Tell the group how to go about voting:
- Participants come forward one by one and state their name and address (in this case, their class/grade) clearly and the poll clerk locates the elector's name on the list.
- The deputy returning officer then asks for the elector's ID and if it matches the voters list, the poll clerk crosses out the elector's name on the list.
- The deputy returning officer then gives them each a folded ballot.
- Each elector-student in turn then goes directly behind the voting screen and marks the ballot with a pencil.
- Any elector who makes a mistake while marking the ballot can ask the deputy returning officer for another one. The first is then regarded as a "spoiled ballot" and is set aside with the rest of the spoiled ballots.
- Once the elector has marked his ballot, he folds it in the same way as he received it and gives it to the deputy returning officer, who removes the counterfoil (black detachable part), puts it in the wastebasket, and gives the ballot back to the elector without unfolding it. The elector then places the ballot in the ballot box.
- Give the deputy returning officer and poll clerk the opportunity to vote before opening the polling station and explain that, in a real election, they would have voted at the advance polls.
The school environment is changing rapidly: integration is a common occurrence in the classroom and may present a new challenge for the teacher when holding an election simulation. Ensure that everyone with a physical or mental impairment exercises the right to vote, illustrating that the electoral process is accessible to all Canadians. Persons with special needs should be able to vote before other electors.
Counting the vote
After everyone has voted, the votes are counted. The deputy returning officer opens the sealed ballot box and empties it onto the table.
He then unfolds the ballots one by one, calls out the name of the candidate for whom it has been marked, and shows the ballot to the poll clerk. On the tally sheet, the poll clerk checks off a box under the name of the candidate selected on each ballot. The deputy returning officer places the counted ballots cast for each candidate in separate piles. After counting, he also checks whether the number of votes recorded on the tally sheet by the poll clerk corresponds to the number of ballots in each candidate's pile. Ballots are rejected if marked incorrectly. Make separate piles for rejected ballots and spoiled ballots (i.e. any ballot incorrectly marked by the elector and exchanged for another one).
The deputy returning officer and the poll clerk must fill out the Statement of Votes. Explain to the group that the number of valid, spoiled, rejected and unused ballots must be equal to the number of ballots you had before the election, and that this must be checked to prevent fraud.
After the votes have been counted, announce the results of the election to the class, stressing that in a democracy, everyone wins.
Here are a few examples of additional activities which can complement the election simulation described above:
- discuss what life would be like without democracy
- invite the local returning officer or member of Parliament (MP) to come and speak to the students
- discuss the people, information and places the students should be aware of: the name of the riding where they live, the names of the political parties in Canada, the names of their MPs and their parties, the addresses of the MPs' riding offices, the names of the returning officers, etc.
- during an election, students could be encouraged to keep an election log containing notes, press clippings, photographs, political cartoons, campaign literature, etc.
- visit the Elections Canada Web site (www.elections.ca) for information about voter registration, electoral districts, election results, candidates and political parties.