Youth Voter Apathy
According to Elections Canada, about 34 per cent of youth aged 18-24 voted in the 2008 federal election and 39 per cent in 2011.
How do we encourage more youth to turn to the polls?
Local political leaders suggest that lowering the voting age would encourage more youth participation.
Another solution proposed by the City of Windsor is a project called Vote Out Loud.
Vote Out Loud (VOL for short) is an engaging information and motivational effort aimed at educating young potential voters through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr), how-to videos, and interviews. Vote Out Loud is being launched by a group of young business owners that were approached by the City of Windsor with the intent of increasing the number of ballots cast in this upcoming election. The city’s official mandate is to promote voter turnout, which Vote Out Loud will try to achieve online and in the community. (VOL Website, Online)
VOL indicates that the City of Windsor has been willing to support initiatives to encourage youth engagement. This program operated in 2010 from August to October (according to Facebook). The question that comes to my mind is what happened? What happened to the program after the election? Was increasing awareness about voting enough? What opportunities did VOL provide youth to make a tangible contribution to Windsor? This program, although a step in the right direction, still falls short of engaging youth in the political process. It has not challenged the culture of voter apathy—addressing a lack of knowledge is only one barrier.
If we aren’t involved in the change process voting just becomes one more thing we are told we “have” to do. Youth take a lot heat for all of the things people perceived we aren’t interested in. As youth, we are faced with these questions on a regular basis:
Are the youth of today willing to make their voices heard? Are they willing to stand up for themselves? Are they willing to rage against the status quo and take the power back? Do the youth have the willingness to educate themselves as to the issues facing Windsor?
The matter of “youth apathy” is not just a result of disinterest. It also stems from disempowerment and a sense of powerlessness. That as youth our experience isn’t valued, that our ideas are impractical or too idealistic, and that we aren’t ready for the responsibility.