Advocates work to get out the reluctant youth vote

Post-secondary students can potentially vote twice during elections.

They are allowed to vote in the municipalities of their school and their permanent residence, where they live after the school months.

But few of them vote at all.

According to Elections Canada’s research of the 2008 federal elections, turnout for young adults ages 18­-35 was just 42.7 per cent. The 18­-24 age group was below 40 per cent that year.

Student apathy is wide spread during election time. According to one voter under 30, younger adults often feel they are not being heard while the candidates are campaigning.

Drew Baker, 28, doesn’t think that the candidates care about student or young adult values.

“None of those (candidates) actually represent my voice or my decisions as to what I would do or what I would at least support,” Baker said. “Get out to East Scarborough where kids are playing on concrete parking lots and put some grass there. That’s going have a lot more of an affect than all this meaningless waterfront restoration and this other crap that they’re doing. I feel like all the choices suck.”

Baker says candidates’ focus on the people that do go out to vote. So instead of wasting his vote, he registers as a non-voter to still have an effect on the election.

“If my voice isn’t going to be heard, I want the world to know that I’m saying ‘I don’t think your listening to me’ and that’s the only way I can,” he said.

Advocacy group Student Vote works to guide students under voting age to participate in future elections when they turn 18. The group goes to elementary and high schools to get children engaged in politics. They use student elections and projects for children to understand the democratic process.

Taylor Gunn, chief election officer of Student Vote, thinks that young people don’t completely understand or care about politics.

“Let’s say you look at the candidates and they are all white old guys and you’re not a white old guy,” Gunn said. “Maybe you don’t see yourself in the process and maybe that’s something you don’t identify with. That’s like one of like 10 different things. Even the whole character of politics itself may not be attractive at all.”

While Student Vote is only helping in their second municipal election, they have already influenced young people to think about their ideals in a leader.

Newly elected TDSB student trustee Zane Schwartz got involved due to several factors, including after an election with Student Vote in grade 5. Even though he is only 17 years old, the Leaside High School student knows that politicians should show students that they care about their needs.

“I think the biggest way is to address the issues that students are struggling with,” Zane said. “I mean there are tuition and all kinds of things. Not everyone is going on to university having problems with that… (But) there are other options… (But) it’s the system that is going to make students feel bad about themselves and make them less successful; whereas if you give students the options, then they might be able to make a decision that be better for themselves.”

About this article

By: Lloyd Quansah
Posted: Sep 29 2010 2:02 pm
Filed under: News Toronto Votes 2010