The Vancouver Island University Students’ Union (VIUSU) isn’t wasting any time in preparation for the next B.C. provincial election. Although the election is scheduled six months from now, VIUSU launched their youth voting campaign on Nov. 14.
Very few eligible voters between the ages of 18-24 vote in B.C. provincial elections. According to Elections B.C., in the 2005 General Election, only 35 percent of people aged 18 to 24 voted, a lower rate than any other demographic.
To combat this statistic, VIUSU is participating in Rock the Vote B.C., a province wide initiative of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students.
Creative VIU students produced a video, “Rock the Vote: 50 Students, 1 Campus,” and premiered it at the Rock the Vote launch party. The nonpartisan video was created by Katya McDonald, Katelyn McDougall, and Brent Pretty, who began working on the project in Oct.
The trio polled 50 students on campus and questioned them about their intention to vote in the May 12 election and what reasons they had in doing so.
“A lot of people really didn’t know why they should vote,” Pretty says. He believes that a lot of youth have not been educated as to the inner workings of Canadian politics and that it may be difficult for them to understand how the Canadian electoral system operates. “I think a huge part of it is the inability to understand the nuance of Canadian politics, it’s not set up as a good vs. evil dichotomy such as the way that the electoral system in United States is presented where you have a clear choice of a leader,” Pretty says. “Here the issues are grayed and the lines between the parties are blurred.”
He says that the video process made him realize that the majority of students didn’t have a lot to say about why they were voting but adds that the students who were voting spoke with great enthusiasm as to why they were voting.
McDougall,Women Students’ Representative on the VIUSU board of directors, says that the aim of the video was to send a message to non-voting students and students who have just come of age for eligibility. She says that the video is personable in nature and is meant as a way for students who have not yet voted to see that there are peers around campus who are taking the time to vote. “It’s just about identifying with the process, it doesn’t have to be this grand huge gesture—it’s just go out and do it,” McDougall says.
She adds that the B.C. government has done very little to connect with the youth voter demographic. “I feel like politics [in Canada] are not marketed towards youth,” McDougall says. “There needs to be more efforts to engage the youth populous.”
“If you look at what just happened with the American election, Steve Schmidt, a Republican adviser said that Romney’s inability to connect with the young demographic stems to his inability to get himself into cultural media,” Pretty says. “You need to be able to connect with them at their home—you have to get onto their facebook wall, onto the front page of reddit. You have to do these things keep yourself visible,” Pretty concludes.
McDonald, who serves as Director of External Relations on the VIUSU board of directors, agrees with McDougall and Pretty and stresses that issues that are important to the youth demographic, such as student loans and tuition increases, are not the main concerns of political parties. “Issues that are central to student life and young people in general aren’t the key issues that are presented to us in provincial and national elections,” McDonald says.
She says that the present goal of the Rock the Vote Campaign is to engage students in the political process and notes that the easiest way to do so is to register voters. “It’s proven that the higher amount of voters you register [increases the] turn out there is from that constituency,” McDonald concludes.
Here’s the campaign video: