This hands-on activity kit will help you hold an election simulation in your classroom so students can learn more about voting and Ontario’s democratic processes.
It is designed to align with the grade 5 social studies curriculum, while also fitting other subject and grade expectations.
The kit includes the materials, roles, and steps you’ll need to hold the election. Fillable templates for ID, ballots, voters list and results tally sheets have been included with the kit. There are guides for creating your own ballot box and voting screens.
The instructions will walk you through setting up your classroom for the election, having students create their own IDs, and getting student volunteers to act as election officials. You can also choose between a short and long activity for selecting candidates, depending on what works best for your class.
In the short activity, students will volunteer to run as candidates within a single electoral district based on a platform they have put together. The class will have two voting locations with the same list of candidates at each location.
In the long activity, students will be put into groups that represent political parties. The class will be divided into two electoral districts, and each political party will develop a platform and choose two members to run as candidates (one for each electoral district). Each electoral district will have its own list of candidates and its own voting location.
Once the candidates have been chosen and a class debate has taken place, students will be able to vote for the candidate of their choice using the ballot templates provided in the kit.
After the election, use the student organizers and discussion questions in the kit to talk with students about the experience. An in-class activity and a take-home activity have also been included to get students thinking about their future as voters.
- Instructions and materials to hold a mock election
- Student organizer template and discussion questions template
- Class and take-home activities including templates
- Assessment rubric
- Glossary of election terms
Here’s what you need to get started:
The following materials are included in this kit:
- Ballot template
- Voters list template
- ID slips template
- Results sheet template
You will also need to supply:
- Ballot box (example in appendix)
- Voting screen (example in appendix)
- Pencils or markers
- Two voting tables
- Voters (the whole class)
- Two or more candidates
- Two election officials
- A Returning Officer
The Returning Officer is the local election officer responsible for coordinating the election in their electoral district. For this activity, the Returning Officer should be the teacher.
Returning Officer and election official duties
- The Returning Officer is responsible for overseeing the election and making sure the voting process is followed. They also announce the results to the class after the election.
- While the class discusses issues, the Returning Officer and election officials are neutral. They do not take a side on the issue and do not join the discussion. However, they do vote and should be included on the voters list and have ID.
- Election officials are responsible for checking the ID of voters, striking them off the voters list and giving out ballots. Once everyone has voted, election officials count how many votes each candidate has received. They give these results to the Returning Officer for review.
B3. demonstrate an understanding of the roles and key responsibilities of citizens and of the different levels of government in Canada, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments.
B3.1 describe the major rights and responsibilities associated with citizenship in Canada (e.g. rights: equal protection under the law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to vote; responsibilities: to respect the rights of others, to participate in the electoral process and political decision making, to improve their communities).
B3.9 describe some different ways in which citizens can take action to address social and environmental issues.
1. Print enough ID slips for each student.
2. Set up at least two voting stations with a ballot box, results sheet, voting screen, and marker. In the short activity, there are two voting locations with the same list of candidates. In the long activity, the class is divided into two electoral districts; each district will have its own voting location and list of candidates.
3. Assign students to one of the two voting locations for when they cast their vote at the end of the short activity or to an electoral district (long activity).
4. Enter the names of the students assigned to vote at each location, or in each electoral district, into the corresponding voters list templates and print one copy of each list. Place the list on the respective table with a pen.
Ontario is divided into geographic areas called electoral districts. Each electoral district is represented by the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) elected for that district.
1. If a student is going to be the Returning Officer, ask for a volunteer for that role first. If not, the teacher carries out these duties (refer to description of the role and responsibilities on page 3).
2. The Returning Officer chooses two student volunteers to help as election officials.
3. The Returning Officer distributes ID slips (see appendix) to students and has them fill out the slip. This is their ID to vote.
During a real election, voters must show ID proving their name and address to vote. If a voter is registered on the voters list, they will be mailed a voter information card during an election telling them when and where to vote. They should also bring this card with them when they vote.
In this activity, student voters will be divided between two voting locations (tables). There will be one set of candidates for the class, and each candidate puts together their own platform.
1. Pick a topic that students would have multiple perspectives on. This could be a headline story, a classroom or school decision, or a hypothetical decision that would impact the students. Some examples are:
a. Should students wear uniforms?
b. What province/territory do you think is the best in Canada and why?
c. Should kids be allowed to eat junk food?
2. Give students time to write down their position on the topic using the organizer, My perspective. They should try to make these reasons as convincing as possible. Encourage students to complete some basic research on the topic if class resources allow.
3. Explain to students that their perspective on the issue will act as their platform.
4. Ask the class for volunteers who believe strongly in their position to be candidates. Make sure you have at least two students willing to be candidates. The students should represent different arguments on the topic chosen in step one.
5. The candidates stand at the front of the class together. This is a mock political debate. Each candidate has one minute to convince the class to vote for their position.
6. Select a student to be the debate moderator. This student will time the candidate speeches and call on other students to ask questions.
7. After the debate, the class gets to ask the candidates about their position. Give students some time to brainstorm questions, working in partners or small groups using the worksheet, Formulating questions.
8. Set an agreed upon time with the class (e.g. 15 minutes) for the question period. The student moderator should make sure to give different students a chance to ask questions and monitor the time allowed for the debate.
Teacher Tip: During the debate, add the candidates’ names to the ballots (either digitally or manually). Divide the ballots between the election officials at the two voting stations.
In this activity, the class will be divided in half into two electoral districts (two separate areas of the classroom). Each electoral district will have its own set of candidates, chosen by the party. Assign one election official to each district.
1. Pick a topic that students would have multiple perspectives or opinions on. This could be a headline story, a classroom or school decision, a hypothetical decision that would impact the students.
a. Should schools have a uniform policy?
b. What province/territory do you think is the best in Canada and why?
c. Should kids be allowed to eat junk food?
Teacher Tip: These questions are designed to elicit varied positions and not just a Yes/No response. For example, question A could garner perspectives such as agreeing to a uniform policy, rejecting a uniform policy, agreeing to it under certain conditions such as student input, rejecting a uniform but agreeing to a dress code, etc.
2. Give students time to write down their position on the topic using My perspective in Appendix A. They should try to make these reasons as convincing as possible. Encourage students to complete some basic research on the topic if class resources allow. 3. As a whole class, identify several positions on the topic and post them in a visible location. Divide the class into groups. Assign a position to each of the groups except for one.
3. As a whole class, identify several positions on the topic and post them in a visible location. Divide the class into groups. Assign a position to each of the groups except for one.
4. Groups that have been assigned a position are political parties. The groups should work together to review the reasons listed on their My perspective organizers and discuss why their position is important. This is their platform that will be presented to the class.
5. The group that has not been assigned a position is a group of undecided voters. While the other groups are discussing their position and creating their platform, this group should discuss the issue from all angles. They do not need to reach an agreement on the issue. They can also start brainstorming questions for the candidates using Formulating questions in Part B of Appendix A.
6. Students in political parties should choose two members of their party to be the candidates. Each candidate will run in one of the electoral districts in the class.
Teacher Tip: Prepare two sets of ballots—one for each electoral district. Add the candidates’ names for one electoral district to the ballots and print enough for half the class, with a few extra. Give these ballots to the corresponding election official. Do the same for the second electoral district. This task can be completed by student volunteers or the teacher.
7. The candidates stand at the front of the class together for the debate. Each team of two has one to two minutes to share their platform and convince the class that their position is the best.
Teacher Tip: Remind students that the candidates should work hard to persuade the undecided voters. Explain to students that in a democracy, persuasion is used rather than coercion to get people to do what you want.
You can also remind students that taking part in public discussion and debate on civic issues is an important democratic responsibility.
8. Select a student to be the debate moderator. This student will time the candidate speeches and call on other students to ask questions.
9. After the debate, the class gets to ask the candidates about their position. Give students some time to brainstorm questions, working in partners or small groups using the worksheet, Formulating questions.
10. Set an agreed upon time with the class (e.g. 15 minutes) for the question period. The student moderator should make sure to give different students a chance to ask questions and monitor the time allowed for the debate.
Teacher Tip: During the debate, add the candidates’ names to the ballots (either digitally or manually). Divide the ballots between the electoral districts.
VOTING (SHORT AND LONG ACTIVITY)
For both the short and long activity, have the class vote on the platforms the candidates presented.
1. The candidates return to their seats following questions. The campaign is now finished, and voting begins.
2. The election officials take their seats at the voting stations.
3. Students line up for their assigned voting location with their ID slips.
4. One at a time, the students go to their assigned location and show their ID to the election official.
5. The election official checks that their name is on the voters list and runs a line through their name with a ruler and pen to strike them off the voters list. Being “struck off” the voters list means you have received your ballot to vote and cannot vote again in the election.
6. The election official then folds a ballot in half and gives it to the student.
7. The student takes the ballot and goes behind the voting screen to mark it in private. See below for the different ways students can mark their ballots.
8. The student folds the ballot, so no one can see how they voted, and takes it back to the election official, who directs them to put it in the ballot box.
RESULTS (SHORT AND LONG ACTIVITY)
Once all students have voted, including the election officials and Returning Officer, the election officials will open the ballot box to count the ballots.
Make sure any leftover or cancelled ballots have been cleared from the table, so they are not accidentally counted.
1. On the results sheet, the election official will list the names of the candidates and record how many votes each candidate received.
2. If any ballots have been declined, the election official will record the number on the results sheet.
3. If any ballots have been marked incorrectly, or not marked at all, the election official will record the number of rejected or unmarked ballots in the results sheet. If a ballot isn’t marked properly, it is up to the election official to decide if it should be counted or rejected. Candidates have the option to challenge the official’s decision and make their case, but the final decision is up to the official.
4. The election official will give the results sheet and the ballots (back in the ballot box) to the Returning Officer.
5. The Returning Officer will announce the official results to the class.
Before voting, let students know about the different ways they can mark their ballot and remind them that how they choose to vote is up to them.
MARKING A BALLOT FOR A CANDIDATE
To vote for a candidate, students should mark an X in the circle beside the candidate’s name.
DECLINING A BALLOT
Voters in Ontario have the right to decline their ballot. This is a public process and is done out loud. If a student wants to decline their ballot, they can tell the election official this.
The election official will strike their name off the voters list and write “declined” on their ballot. The ballot will be kept separate and recorded separately in the results.
A ballot will be counted in the results as “unmarked” if no mark has been made by the voter on the ballot and it has been deposited into the ballot box.
A ballot may be counted as rejected in the results if it is marked with initials or another identifying mark or marked outside of one of the circles beside the candidates’ names.
IF THEY MAKE A MISTAKE
If a student makes a mistake while marking their ballot, they can take their ballot to the election official and ask for a replacement. The election official will write “cancelled” on the ballot and issue the voter a new ballot. Cancelled ballots are kept separate but are not part of the results.
Discussion and activities
Get students to speak with a voter in their life to learn more about their attitudes about voting. A template is provided for them to fill in the responses.
Get to know a voter
Now that you have voted, talk to an adult you know (a family member, family friend, coach or teacher) about what voting means to them.
- Do you vote? Why or why not?
- How do you decide who to vote for?
- How would you feel if you were no longer allowed to vote?
- Did you or someone you know ever have a hard time voting?
- Have you voted in another country besides Canada? How was it the same or different?
Advance voting is a set number of days during the election period where you can vote in person before election day using a ballot with a list of candidates.
A ballot is a piece of paper that lists the candidates and their political parties (if applicable) who are running for office. To vote for a candidate, mark an “X” on the ballot in the white circle beside the name of the candidate of your choice.
A candidate is a person running to be a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), who has been issued a Certificate of Nomination from a Returning Officer or the Chief Electoral Officer during the election period.
CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to oversee provincial elections in Ontario.
Ontario’s election law allows voters to decline their ballot. This is a public process and is done out loud. The election official will mark “declined” on the election documentation and the ballot will be placed in an envelope for declined ballots. Declined ballots will be counted and reported after the polls close on election night and included in the official results as “declined ballots”.
An election period ends with election day, which is the last day to vote in an election.
The election period begins the day the writ is issued and ends on election day.
An elector is a person who is eligible to vote in an Ontario provincial election. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old, a Canadian citizen and a resident of Ontario.
ELECTORAL DISTRICT (ED)
A geographical area of the province defined in the Representation Act that is represented by a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
When the total number of government seats in the house exceeds the total number of opposition seats.
A marked ballot is one that has an X in one of the circles next to the candidates’ names. Marked ballots will be counted and reported after the polls close on election night and included in the official results as accepted ballots marked for candidate.
When the total number of opposition seats in the house exceeds the total number of government seats.
During official tabulation, the Returning Officer compiles the results for each candidate from the results tabulated by election officials on election night. At the conclusion of the official tabulation, each Returning Officer declares the candidate with the most votes to be elected. Candidates or their designated representatives are invited to official tabulation to observe the proceedings.
PERMANENT REGISTER OF ELECTORS FOR ONTARIO
The Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario (PREO), more commonly known as the voters list, includes the names and addresses of people who are eligible to vote in Ontario. Information on the register is updated from a variety of sources including Elections Canada, other government agencies, and through direct updates from electors.
When an election is called, information from the Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario is used to create the voters list for each electoral district.
A political party is an organization that is registered with Elections Ontario and has run at least two candidates in an election.
If a voter marks their ballot with initials or another identifying mark, or marks outside of one of the circles beside the candidates’ names, their ballot may be rejected. Rejected ballots will be counted and reported after the polls close on election night and included in the official results as “rejected ballots”.
A Returning Officer is the election official who is appointed to administer an election in an electoral district by the Lieutenant Governor in Council (the Cabinet) upon the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer.
If a voter does not mark their ballot and places it in the ballot box, the ballot will be considered unmarked.
A voter is an elector who accepts a ballot from an election official.
The voters list is the common way of referring to the Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario.
A building or other facility selected by a Returning Officer to be a location where voting takes place.
- ID template
- Ballot template
- Voters list template
- Result tally sheet template
- Future Voters letter classroom activity template
- Get to know a voter template
- Classroom layout diagram
- Ballot box guide
- Voting screen guide