Organizations campaign to increase youth voter turnout

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Spencer Van Dyk — The Fulcrum (University of Ottawa)

With the federal election approaching, several organization are taking on low youth voter turnout. In 2011, voter turnout for Canadians aged 18–24 was 38.8 per cent and this time around, organizations are launching campaigns to try and engage young people in politics.

Anne-Marie Roy, deputy chair of the student lobby group, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) said they’ve been working to educate students about post-secondary education issues in the election. She said the idea is that when they hear candidates talking about their platforms, students are “familiar with the context of what’s going on and what to look for.”

Voting for students has become more difficult since the passing of the Fair Elections Act in 2014. The chief electoral officer is no longer in charge of promoting elections and encouraging everyone to vote. The act also makes it more difficult for people to vote if their address is not up to date, as is often the case with students living away from home.
The act also abolishes the old system of vouching, where a voter could vouch for another person to prove their address. Now, if someone doesn’t have proof of address, another person can take an oath, verifying their address however both need official identification.

The CFS launched their It’s No Secret campaign in response to these electoral reforms. They’ve been hosting barbecues and other events to distribute information about how to vote and why it’s important. Roy said one of the goals of the campaign is to “get politicians to talk about our issues,” but also to encourage students to vote.

The CFS is not the only organization campaigning to increase voter turnout. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a national not-for-profit, non-partisan student organization, launched its Get Out the Vote campaign on Sept. 1, in collaboration with student associations across the country including the SRC at UNB Saint John.

“The object of this campaign is to persuade students to vote and ensure their voices are heard,” said Erik Queenen, board chair for CASA, in a release. “It’s time students step up and determine how politics unfold in Canada.”

Another group, Vote Savvy, a youth-led, party-neutral, non-profit is partnering with universities, colleges and other organizations to help students understand how their beliefs match federal party platforms. The group hosts online surveys to determine which political issues matter to students, and to demonstrate which parties are most aligned on those issues.

Like Vote Savvy, the CFS is aiming to connect students with federal issues that affect them, notably tuition fees. Roy said the government’s budget is a statement of its priorities, and that students should make every effort to be put on the agenda. She said tuition fees have tripled since the 1990s, that current students have the highest student debt in history, and that the CFS is seeking solutions from politicians to lower those fees and address issues students care about.

“It’s been a little bit disappointing so far, we did hear a little bit from the Greens, and the Conservatives are talking about the same old thing: tax credits that we find are a little bit inefficient,” she said.

The UNBSRC Get Out the Vote campaign will kick off on September 28. for more information visit getoutthevote.ca.