Increasing youth voter turnout a priority in run up to federal election, say voters

By Ally Harris
Jan. 26, 2015
Drew MacEachern has some advice for anyone who didn’t vote in the 2011 federal election.
You have no right to complain about the way the government works, the UPEI political science student said.
“I hear a lot of people complain about the way Canada is going, and if you feel that strongly about the way Canada is going, you have to vote.”
In the 2011 election, just 38.8 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 cast their vote. With another election scheduled for later this year, the question of increasing youth voter turnout has risen again.
Studies have shown a higher youth turnout could have a huge effect on the results of an election. Studies based on polling done prior to the 2011 election suggest if 60 per cent of young people had made it to the polls, Stephen Harper likely wouldn’t have won a majority.
“If you don’t like Harper, that was – and there will be – an opportunity for you to actually do something about Stephen Harper,” said MacEachern.
Keith Kennedy ran for mayor of Charlottetown in the fall. The biggest problem is young people aren’t engaged in politics and simply have no interest in it, he said.
“Somehow we have forgotten some way to communicate there. Or, that there’s apathy. It’s possible that this generation doesn’t value the vote as much as the older generation does,” he said.
“I think more young people should be running for politics. I think the voice of young people is needed, we need the fresh ideas, we need the vibrancy of young people and the ideas of coming forward and saying ‘Look, we can do things better.’”
Amber Andrew doesn’t vote.
“I don’t think it really matters who you vote for because in the end, it’s all the same anyway.
“I figure I shouldn’t vote on something I know nothing about.”
Another factor that may be preventing young Canadians from getting to the polls is a lack of a fixed address, especially if they are away from home for school.
Dave Maloney moved back to Charlottetown from Halifax recently and didn’t vote in the recent municipal election as he wasn’t sure what ward to vote in.
“Young people are transient as well, they move around a lot, and it’s hard to always know what zone you’re in.”
But when he can, Maloney makes sure to vote to make his voice heard.
“If somebody was complaining to me about politics and I knew they didn’t go out and vote, I would say ‘Well that’s too bad for you, you didn’t vote. You should have done something about it.’”
The introduction of online voting could encourage more young people to vote, said Kennedy.
“We have to go where the young people are. We have to go to where technology is and we have to make voting easy. Right now, voting is complicated.”
MacEachern said online voting will happen at some point.
“It gives people more opportunities to vote if they’re busy, or if they don’t feel like it otherwise, and at least that way you can get more people involved and give more people an incentive to learn about it.”
And while online voting could lead to the potential for hacking, he doesn’t see it as a big concern, he said.
“The potential for hacking into voting would be more disruptive than (corruptive), as it would leave a fairly obvious cyber trail.”
Kennedy said he would trust his vote over the Internet.
“We have security that banks use, billions of dollars go over the Internet every day. So we trust our money on the Internet, why can’t we trust our vote?”
And if voting did become available online, there would be at least one extra voter, Amber Andrew.
“I think the online voting needs to happen and I will be a voter if the online (voting) happens.”