U of M students pumped about provincial vote

But youth turnout is stuck in a downward trend nationally


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Summer's nearly over, and the kids are back in class -- but will they stuff the ballot box?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/09/2011 (4216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Summer’s nearly over, and the kids are back in class — but will they stuff the ballot box?

According to many of the students the Free Press surveyed at the University of Manitoba on Wednesday: you can count on them. While a few students admitted they weren’t planning to vote in the Oct. 4 provincial election — or “(hadn’t) really thought about it” — the overall chorus was in the affirmative.

But will those keen to vote make their mark on what has been a steady downward trend?

It’s one of the most puzzling electoral conundrums: for all their big ideas and big energy, Canada’s youth haven’t been too keen to cast their ballots. In most elections, only about one-third of Canadians aged 18 to 25 vote. The trend has been with us for awhile: starting in 1984, the youth voter turnout began to drop sharply, and steadily.

The trend has raised red flags with authorities. In 2010, a parliamentary report even wondered if that decline could account for the overall drop in national voter turnout at elections.

If so, the report warned, that tendency may not be a phase. “Analysis… suggests that simply aging will not increase (youth’s) propensity to vote, as might have been the case with past generations,” stated the report, which was authored by the Library of Parliament. “The implication of this trend is that the overall voter turnout in Canada will continue to drop.”

But if youth aren’t voting, it’s not because someone forgot to tell them they should.

Well before the writ was dropped for the upcoming provincial contest, Gail Asper rapped on the subject. Then the University of Manitoba put a cool $1,000 cash and other prizes on the table for the top pro-voting videos in its YouTube contest, VoteAnyWay.

Even teens not yet old enough to have their say are being given a chance to say it anyway. During the build-up to the election, Elections Manitoba got in the game, launching its Citizen Next website and a video contest to help pump kids up about voting when they’re old enough. And Student Vote, which runs mock contests in high schools across the country, will jump in on a Manitoba election for the first time by providing teachers with material to do election lessons in the classroom.

Meanwhile, student unions across Manitoba are gearing up to launch larger campaigns to whip up participation at the Oct. 4 election.

“We’re working to really raise awareness this year to get students out,” said Matt Hepner, University of Manitoba Students Union vice-president, who pledged that UMSU will roll out a major campaign as election day nears.


Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Friday, September 9, 2011 6:50 AM CDT: Adds video

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