We don’t vote

By Veronika Janik

A recent study suggests the number of youth voters between the ages of 18-24 is steadily decreasing.

In the last federal election in 2000, only 64 per cent of registered voters headed to the polls, and of them only 25 per cent were youth electorates. To address this issue, Elections Canada held a National Forum on Youth Voting in Calgary, Oct. 30-31.

"The real purpose is to gather leaders of youth organizations, Aboriginal people, people from the business, political and union worlds to come in and share how they think we should get youth participation in elections back to where it was," said Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Jean-Pierre Kingsley.

The forum dealt with issues such as why voter participation among youth is low and what actions can be taken to help eliminate this international trend.

"There is a lack of knowledge on the part of youth on what’s happening politically," stated Kingsley. "It’s not apathy towards what’s happening, it’s just lack of interest."

Youth are not politically inclined for a number of reasons, according to the study.

"There is a weaker sense of civic duty and I can understand that, because this is not a fault, it is a fact," explained Kingsley. "Some other main factors the study came up with was that another correlation seems to be between the fact that there is no direct contact between the youth and political parties," says Kingsley.

An essential topic at the forum was methods of reaching Canadian youth, dubbed the "MuchMusic generation," due to their heavy focus on the media.

"Certainly, media is one of the best methods as far as Elections Canada is concerned," stated Kingsley. "Others who have messages to transmit like political parties and candidates may find the media helpful, but it may not be their main means. These will be all the things we’re going to be looking at."

Low voter turnouts among youth can be seen anywhere from federal elections to university campuses.

"We tend to have about 10-14 per cent voter turn-out which is the norm around campuses," stated Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides.

Howeve,r this year’s SU by-election turned out to have a substantially larger number of voters as well as more individuals running.

"Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come," said Nicolaides. "Maybe people are becoming more interested and want to become more involved," he adds.

With forums such as last week’s and an ever-growing interest in youth participation, it is hopeful involvement will accelerate.

"I happen to think that young people care as much about their democracy as do all the other people, it’s just a matter of transmitting the importance of democracy and participation, and how closely it is tied to the electoral process," Kingsley mused.

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