By Mario Ernesto Carranza
Sept. 21, 2015
Claire Byrne checked her computer screen as she helped a young woman register to vote for the upcoming federal election.
Almost a hundred students, organizers, and candidates jammed into the Wave at UPEI on Sept. 23 for a UPEISU sponsored Social meet and greet with Charlottetown’s federal candidates.
“I volunteered tonight because I think there are too many obstacles in the way when it comes to registering to vote. Especially for young people who may have moved around in the last six months like me,” said Byrne.
A political science student at UPEI, she was one of many volunteers recruited by Young Voters and the UPEI Student Union to host a social for students to meet and listen to the candidates for the Charlottetown riding.
“I think most people have the misconception that young people are apathetic when it comes to elections but I don’t think so. I think it is important to tap into our demographic to have a more accurate democratic system,” said Byrne.
Dozens of students lined up at her computer to register for the Oct. 19 election.
They took their seats as, one by one, NDP candidate Joe Byrne, Green candidate Becka Viau, Progressive Conservative Ron MacMillan, and Liberal MP Sean Casey talked about their party platforms.
Each candidate emphasized the importance of the youth vote, regardless of which candidate or party they voted for.
UPEI student Megan Martin listened to what the candidates had to say.
“I came tonight because I wanted to be educated about each candidate and where they stand. People definitely have a skewed impression of young voters, but I think events like this engage students and I think that’s important.”
Martin was working in Alberta during the P.E.I. provincial election, but she’s enthusiastic about the election, which will be her first federal election.
“This social helps spark debates between young people and students about issues that we may be able to help influence. I think every single one of our votes could shape the election.”
John Rix is vice president of academic and external for the UPEISU and he spearheaded the event Monday night.
“In the last two weeks we’ve seen 600 pledges to vote from students and young people and when we looked for volunteers there seemed to be no shortage.”
“We have helped organize and create events like this one and a viewing party for the Globe and Mail’s Leader’s Debate at Upstreet Brewing. Co and hope to keep student engagement going until election day.”