Cast Your Ballots: The Youth Vote

If you’ve been following my posts from last year, you know that I rarely venture out of my DIY-reviews-music-student-life bubble. However, this year I’ve challenged myself to step outside of my comfort zone and start writing about issues that matter to me. Hopefully this little challenge goes well and I’m able to mix it up throughout the entire year!

It’s elections season in Canada and the youth vote has captured the spotlight.

If you’re like me and have 3 midterms creeping up, the importance of voting may be put off in favour of slamming back that coffee and pulling long hours at Taylor. However, with the introduction of polling stations on campuses across Canada, there’s been a significant rise in the student vote this year. These special stations allowed students to vote for a candidate running in their home riding, no matter how far away at school they are. The general consensus is that these polling stations have been extremely successful in pulling in the student target group.

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But why is it so important for students to vote?

“I don’t care about politics, it’s just so boring”

“It doesn’t affect me at all, I’m just one person going to school”

“Nothing will change, so why bother?”

These are common responses from my friends when I asked them if they were voting in the upcoming election. When I tried to explain the how politics affects all Canadians in everything we do, the response is still usually the same.

“But I don’t like any of the parties. None of them reflect what I want”

“Doesn’t not voting send a greater message?”

Short answer: NO

Long answer: NO because politicians target groups for their votes. They’ll target the rich, minorities, women… anyone who’ll actually go out to polling stations and put an ‘X’ by the name of their party’s representative. Politicians will cater to whoever gives them the most seats. Everyone is a target group, except for students/youths.

“Well, why aren’t we targeted?”

“There’s so many of us, why don’t they want what we want?”

“I would totally vote if politicians catered to what matters to me”

Youth aren’t targeted for 1 reason: we don’t even exist on the politician’s radar. The disproportionately large amount of youth who aren’t voting isn’t seen by politicians as a statement, but rather as confirmation to continue to ignore the student demographic and focus on “real adults” doing “real adult things” (like voting).

To them, what we want isn’t important simply because they don’t see us caring enough to impact the number of seats they’ll win. And they won’t start seeing us until we do start impacting their bottom line by showing up at polling stations.

So, what would actually happen if every student who’s eligible to vote actually cast their ballots this year? What if we actually decided to do something, instead of waiting for the “right moment” when we become “real adults” in the eyes of politicians? According to Rick Mercer, we’d “scare the hell out of the people who run this country”

And that’s exactly what I want to happen. Politicians are never going to take our perspective into account, despite being the demographic that we’re possibly the ones most affected by their decisions. They’ll continue to decide what’s best for us and say it to our parents, who’ll then in turn confirm or deny. Even though we’re technically adults, we’re not treated as such.

This means we’ll have to take ourselves into account and make ourselves a target group. Why is tuition so expensive? How are we going to pay off our student debt? How will we afford housing with these inflated prices? Why are you expecting us to deal with the fallout of the environmental destruction of your generation? Why is it that we can’t get jobs because the older generation isn’t required to retire until they practically die?

These questions are important to me and I intend to get an answer through my vote during this year’s federal election. While you may have different questions, it’s important that you not only ask but also seek the answers. So, if you want to join me in making the youth vote exist in the eyes of politicians, then get to your polling stations on Election Day next Monday, October 19.

Take just 20 minutes out of your day (I promise, you’ll still ace that biostats exam) and do what young people all across the world are dying to do. Vote. If we don’t use this right, then why bother having it as our right?

To see the closest polling stations to you, visit Elections Canada.

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