Federal election

High school student brings politics to peers through mock election

17-year-old Keshav Paliwal wanted to fight youth voter apathy. So he took matters into his own hands.

Keshav Paliwal prepares polling stations for student voters.
Keshav Paliwal prepares polling stations for student voters.   Maia Kowalski

The halls of Prince Andrew High School buzzed with political chatter Tuesday afternoon.

After students listened to campaign pitches, they made their way to one of the designated voting stations and cast their votes in a mock election.

The participants? The actual candidates representing each political party running in the federal riding of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

Discouraged by the low voter turnout for people aged 18-24 in the last federal election, Grade 12 student Keshav Paliwal organized the event to encourage the 900 students at his school to become more involved in politics.

“I think part of the reason that young people don’t get out to vote is because they don’t know how the process works,” he said.

Paliwal started planning the event during his summer vacation, with the help of the school principal and his civics teacher. Once September rolled around, he also received what he called an “overwhelming amount” of support from other students, who wanted to help with ballots and organize the speaker presentation.

Each candidate on Tuesday spoke briefly about their party’s platform and urged students to participate.

“You’re not too young. Get involved, get informed,” said Conservative Party candidate Jason Cole during his pitch to students.

Candidates, student organizers and school staff gathered on stage for photos after pitches.
Candidates, student organizers and school staff gathered on stage for photos after pitches.   Maia Kowalski

After the pitches, candidates separated into classrooms, where students and teachers could ask questions about issues that were most important to them.

Assisted suicide was one of the more popular issues candidates were asked to share their views on.

Baden, a Grade 11 student, said he appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the parties. He walked into each classroom to get an idea of what each party stood for.

“I think that more organizations should come out like this to help students learn that when they’re older, it’s a right and a privilege to vote,” he said.

Paliwal feels that this event will make change in the long run.

“And I don’t think there’s a better time to do that than with students who are in high school and are almost able to vote,” he said.