Students in Anne Ostwald’s Civic Studies 11 class have come up with an edgy campaign urging adults to vote in the upcoming municipal election.
On Monday the class walked door to door to businesses in the Third Avenue and Argyle Street corridor asking them to put up posters proclaiming, “If voting doesn’t matter to you, then clothes shouldn’t either”, with information on voting day.
The posters were the first phase of the class’s campaign designed to improve the dismal voter turnout that occurred during the 2008 election.
“The kids are educating the students,” Ostwald said of the rest of Alberni District Secondary School. She is hoping a link will be available on the school’s website; a banner has been made, and students are taking T-shirt orders from anyone who wants to help promote their message.
Ostwald involved her class—which studies various levels of government and how they work—in the last federal election, and said it was natural to do the same for the municipal election. The Civic Studies class came up with the slogan, then she approached her Arts Foundations 12 class to come up with a poster. Megan Koivunen won the art competition, and the school approved the campaign, Ostwald said.
The students have also planned an all candidates meeting for Wednesday, Nov. 2 from 9–10 a.m. at the ADSS Auditorium. They have prepared six questions and will ask one question of each candidate. Although the public is invited to the meeting, it is a student-led event, she said.
The kicker to this project, of course, is that none of the students are old enough to vote. So why are they bothering?
“It’s going to be our future,” Nick Klint said. “We want (people) to vote so our kids can live better in the future. It’s better to have a town that’s more caring and to have a leader that’s not chosen just by a few people.”
The students are taking the message back to their parents and hoping to spread it to others of legal voting age.
“Even though we can’t vote, lots of other people can but they don’t,” Cody Zaleschuk said.
The whole election experience has been of interest to German exchange student Miriam Barkhoff. She hails from the city of Essen (near Dusseldorf on the west side of Germany), population 600,000. In the last election held in Essen, voter participation stood at 50 per cent.
Barkhoff said the differences in how elections are regarded in Essen compared to Port Alberni is evident.
Incumbent mayor Ken McRae stressed that just as it’s important for new candidates to get their names out in the public so people can learn who they are, it’s equally important for residents to get out and vote.
“In a democracy you want to make sure you get people out there,” he said. In the north African state of Tunisia, which recently held its first-ever democratic vote, 72 per cent of the electorate voted. McRae compared that to Port Alberni, where only 29 per cent of qualified voters bothered to fill out a ballot.
“What the heck is wrong with us? We should be an example to the rest of the world,” he said.
“We’ve become way too complacent.”
Free buses on election day
The Civics 11 class has successfully lobbied city council to provide free busing for voters on election day, Saturday, Nov. 19. People 18 years and older will be able to ride the bus for no charge to get to Glenwood Centre to vote anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on that day.
The students also received permission to hang banner on 10th Avenue, which will be a version of Koivunen’s artwork and the voting slogan.
Advance voting takes place Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Port Alberni City Hall, 4850 Argyle Street and Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Alberni Elementary School gym, 4645 Helen Street (via the Arrowsmith Road entrance). There is also a special voting opportunity on Thursday, Nov. 10 for qualified electors who are residents at various seniors’ care facilities.
General voting takes place on Saturday, Nov. 19, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Glenwood Centre, 4480 Vimy Street.
For information about voting and the civic election, follow the links on the city’s website at www.portalberni.ca.