On October 29, 2023, Colombians will go to local polls to select their mayors and governors. A week before that, more than 200,000 Colombian youth are expected to do the same, as part of the Voto Estudiantil parallel election program. 

Launched in 2018, Voto Estudiantil is an adaptation of the Canadian Student Vote program, expanded and tailored for the Colombian context by a local team, CIVIX Colombia.

CIVIX Colombia will collaborate closely with municipal and departmental authorities of education to run the program, with a dedicated group of more than 2,000 educators at 1,000 schools. The program is expected to reach more than 200,000 students.  

As with the Canadian Student Vote, Voto Estudiantil is a learning experience that uses elections as a teachable moment to help teachers bring democracy alive in the classroom. Students are exposed to all aspects of the democratic process through experiential learning.

The parallel election involves the appointment of voting juries, electoral observers, and a counting commission — replicating the actual voting process. In the lead up to the election, students investigate the candidates for mayors and governorships and discuss elections with classmates, teachers, and their families.

To prepare for the election, CIVIX Colombia is holding a series of Democracy Bootcamp capacity-building events during August and September to help educators run the program in their schools. 

More than 30 Democracy Bootcamps will take place across various cities in the departments of Antioquia, Atlántico, Boyacá, Bolívar, Caldas, Cundinamarca, La Guajira, Magdalena, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Santander, Sucre, Valle del Cauca and Bogotá D.C.

Activities and discussions will explore numerous related themes including citizen participation, journalism, teaching strategies, as well as discourse on voting barriers, polarization, and political communication. 

Teachers will be provided materials to support delivery of the parallel election, related to types of government, the voting process, and critical analysis of candidates.

Andrés Sáenz Peñas, Executive Director of CIVIX Colombia, underscores the significance of elections within Colombia’s political landscape. 

“Elections represent a pivotal juncture in Colombia’s national political agenda,” he says. “However, they grapple with challenges like low voter turnout, disinformation influence, and historical political polarization. Our primary objective is to equip youth with democratic principles to enable informed and independent decisions.”


Voto Estudiantil and related activities have been made possible with support from Global Affairs Canada.