We need to increase youth voter turnout

Voter apathy among post-secondary students remains a concern for the upcoming federal election

Young people need to show up if they want to see progressive change. PHOTO: Manny Becerra / Unsplash

By Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

The upcoming 2021 Canadian federal election has a five week campaign period. During those five weeks, political parties are attempting to persuade voters to support them, but the greater underlying issue is convincing young voters to vote at all. Despite the 2019 federal election having the “highest national turnout since the 2004 election” overall, only 53.9% of eligible 18–24 year-old voters cast their ballots. An increased youth voter turnout in the upcoming elections is necessary to represent  youths’ concerns in parliament.

The 2015 National Youth Survey results indicated “youth were less likely than older adults to feel that by voting they could make a difference and more likely to feel that politics and government seem too complicated.” 

Since winning candidates have no required minimum number of votes, it may seem like there is no incentive to vote. After all, candidates can win with a majority of votes from any voting age group and an absolute majority isn’t needed. However, the low youth voter turnout increases the risk that their respective riding’s outcome will overlook youth’s political interests. Given that us Gen Z voters are the most culturally diverse age group, our votes have the chance to increase representation for diverse communities’ concerns in parliament. Our generation is also more likely to advocate for climate action, so our votes may help elect candidates who are passionate about sustainable initiatives.

Our votes influence which political party will be responsible for making decisions crucial to Canadian residents’ and non-residents’ financial wellbeing, health, and safety. For example, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit impacted over 2 million lives. Additionally, continuously changing travel restrictions influences the lives of international students and helps curb the pandemic. As Canada’s COVID-19 cases continue to increase, the pandemic continues to demonstrate its unpredictable nature. By not voting, we miss the opportunity to choose qualified government leaders to guide us through the pandemic safely.

Elections Canada reported, “The more recent generations of youth continued to vote less, even as they became older.” These trends indicate that voter participation is an important habit to instill early on, because it may contribute to a voters’ likelihood to vote in future elections.

However, low voter turnout among young voters remains an ongoing issue, as those ages 34 and under are least likely to vote. Reasons for not voting included a lack of time, difficulty proving their identity at polling stations, and confusion about the voting process. 

Voting is more than an opportunity — it is a responsibility. Collectively, the youth vote carries weight, as 18–24 year olds made up over 2.7 million of the 2019 election’s electoral population. By voting, we have the chance to advocate for our concerns at the national level.

To register as a voter, opt-in for mail-in voting ballots, and more, visit Elections Canada. Other than election day, voters can vote on advance polling days (September 10–13), by mail, or at an Elections Canada office (before September 14 at 6:00 p.m.). Eligible voters living abroad can apply to the International Register of Electors before September 14.

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