VANCOUVER, BC - The Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) has launched its Count On Our Vote campaign in advance of the upcoming provincial election. This campaign is engaging young people on campuses across BC in an effort to pick up the slack of political parties that are ignoring young people, and level the playing field of an electoral system tilted against young people.
The majority of young people will experience their first election while attending college or university. In fact, approximately 80% of post-secondary students will have never voted in a provincial election this May. Despite this, the timing of the election is squeezed precisely between the end of exams in April and the start of summer jobs in mid May - a time when most young people are not engaged. “A May 9th election is the worst possible timing for young people,” stated Alex McGowan, Chairperson of the ABCS. Furthermore, young renters and transient student populations are the worst hit by old proof-of-address requirements that force them to procure mail they may not have, receive mail to a location that may be in flux, or who may not even have a legal mailbox. “Surely there are more innovative ways of verifying residency in 2017,” stated Kim Rutledge, ABCS Director of Campaigns. “We can and must do better.”
Political parties are also failing young people. They put a large portion of their resources into reaching out to their supporters and making sure they show up at the polling station, and play a crucial role in driving voter turnout. However, they simply fail to effectively extend these efforts to young people. “A key focus of the campaign is filling the gap left by ineffective parties by reaching out to young people on campus to make sure that they have all the tools they need to vote,” said Rutledge. Political parties spend much more money on forms of outreach that target older generations, such as mail-outs, landline phone banking, and TV/radio ads. Political parties also put much more volunteer time into canvassing in single-family home neighbourhoods where young people don’t live. Furthermore, the only political party campus clubs that exist are small token groups at UBC, SFU, and UVic. “Where are the parties?” Asked McGowan, “The lack of campus clubs is a huge missed opportunity to engage young people.”
Despite the multitude of barriers and the absence of political parties, the ABCS is optimistic about youth voter turnout. Young people are resiliently getting involved against the odds - the last federal election saw an unprecedented increase in youth voter turnout. The ABCS is working with student societies across BC to ensure that the gaps in the electoral system are filled.