The Youth vote is typically the hardest to harness during any election. Often youth are disengaged and uniformed, which tends to lead to them not appearing at the polls come election day.
I would like to think that youth engagement and participation in Federal Election 41 would be different, especially given the digital era we are in. I fear though that this will not be the case. There is added challenging in rega rds to reaching the youth vote this election: timing.
The timing of this election is horrible for new voters.
Problem one: A chunk of the youth demographic is currently sitting in their dorm room or apartment at school buried beneath a stack of books studying a semesters worth of material for their final exams. I’m not so far removed from my years as a student that I cease to remember that little else mattered at this time of year, let alone managed to find a permanent home in memory. So as it is student are encountering an overload of information; handling the overload of election information will be a challenge to say the least, and as student deal with finals, they are not likely going to go out and find the information, it is going to have to come to them.
Problem two: I encountered this when I was in University and living away from home – having to change my voters registration. A number students simply do not change their voting registration to their school address and simply forgo voting in the election because they do not feel that they are a qualified voting participant of the community that they are living in for school.
Problem three: A number of students move for school, spending 8 months living at or near their post-secondary institution and four months living at home. With the election happening May 2nd, students who fall into this category will spend at least the first half (if not more) of the campaign in one riding, familiarizing themselves with the candidates there (if they have the time) and then returning home for the remainder of the campaign, which means they will have little time to learn about the candidates in their own riding.
Problem four: Summer Jobs – I know a number of people who immediately leave for summer jobs following the end of their school year. So in the midst of moving and training for their new summer jobs, students may lose track of the election and simply not vote.
So what can be done?
Candidates and or Parties, if wanting to reach this demographic need to reach out through the most accessible medium for youth – Social Media. Candidates to need to engage via Facebook and Twitter. Create a page or a handle and start talking. Don’t simply broadcast, interact. Find people to follow, follow people who follow you. Engage with what they are saying, what they are asking. Create a forum of open communication. Invest in the people.
Veteran Voters – taken time to engage youth. During this past municipal election, London Ontario was a great example of this with Hack the Vote. Community members pulled together to engage the youth demographic. By reaching out through social media and creating accessible events and bringing the candidate to the voters. This is something that needs to be done again for this federal election. Where ever you live, find a way to help the youth demographic get informed and get engaged with this election process. Go to them, or go to your candidates and push them to get involved with the youth demographic.
Youth Voters – Get informed! – Find your Candidates office, attend of their events or rallies, find them on Facebook or Twitter. Connect with other voters in your voting community or within the larger voting community. On Twitter you can follow election tweets by searching the hashtag #exln41 and many ridings now have their own hashtags as well. Parties also have their own hashtags Liberal – #LPC, Conversative – #CPC, New Democratic Party – #NDP, Green – #GPC. Some of the best things I’ve read about politics have come from the candidates or the parties themselves, but they come from the discussion that is generated by the people in my community who I follow on twitter, it a great place to get informed. On twitter you can follow the parties, the candidates, the media and the voters, all perspectives in one place.
Register to vote where-ever you maybe. If you’re at school, make sure you register in your new riding. To find out about voter registration visit Elections Canada. If you want to vote in your home riding, but you aren’t going to be there, learn about voting by Special Ballot through Elections Canada.
You can also register the day of the election by showing up at the polling station, providing you have proof of identity and address with you (ie drivers license and a phone bill).
The below is an excerpt from Elections Canada regarding voter registration:
To register to vote:
- call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868
- visit your local Elections Canada office between March 30 and 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26
- go to your advance polling place on Friday, April 22, Saturday, April 23 or Monday, April 25, or
- go to your election day polling place on Monday, May 2
Get the hours and address of your local Elections Canada office.
After April 8, the address of your advance and election day polling places will be available on this Web site or by calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.
To register, you’ll be asked to:
- fill out a form (you can return it by mail, by fax or in person)
- certify that you are a Canadian citizen who will be 18 or older on election day, Monday, May 2, and
- prove your identity and address
Most electors are already registered in the National Register of Electors (the Register), a database of Canadian electors who are qualified to vote in federal elections and referendums. Elections Canada will send a voter information card to registered electors between April 8 and April 13.