Getting out the vote

Ad campaigns, photo-calls, and rallies are in full swing as Canada gears up for the upcoming federal election on October 19th. What does it mean to vote? Why is it significant? Here are four articles that speak to the importance of getting out the vote.

Everything is political
Getting out the student vote
Why I vote
Students at Glebe Collegiate get up close with democracy


Everything is political

By Sara Minaeian

minaeian_sara_Why I vote Aug 2015  chantal I walked around campus with a friend one late winter’s day hauling with me a whiteboard, dry-erase markers, and a camera. We stopped by one of the busiest spots on campus and looked around. A student passed us by, looking in our direction. I jumped at the chance. “Do you vote?” I asked.

A pair of hesitant eyes glazed over my whiteboard with the words “#iVote because” written across the top. With shifting stance and avoiding eye contact, the student replied, “I’m not voting age yet.”
“But would you vote when you are of age?”
“I don’t know.”
“How come?”
“Voting is a lot of pressure.”

This conversation stuck out for me. Voting is a lot of pressure. Why? The vote isolates the individual and has an entitled feel to it. It is something that we both owe and are owed, as opposed to a democratic performance. It seems that you either vote or you don’t, and that determines if you are political.

minaeian_sara_Why I vote Aug 2015  maddy Although political activity can take many shapes, the category of voter and non-voter quickly turns into political and apolitical, further pushing away the under-engaged. This resonates with many of the youth I work with. In talking to young Canadians I have found that the vote is seen exclusively as an obligation. Many youth express their frustration that the focus on the vote problematizes voter turnout. Instead, they agree that a focus on the election itself would be more instrumental in revealing why youth are disengaged. A focus on elections would problematize the quality of politics.

This reminds me that it’s important not to mistake the effect for the cause. Youth disengagement (lower voter turnout) is the effect. The cause is the quality of politics. This is arguably a cycle, but there is value in looking at the quality of politics as a key area for improvement. The focus on improving the quality of politics would leave greater room for civic education, which is clearly lacking.

Aside from being turned off by negative campaign ads and hyper-partisanship, in many of my deeper discussions with other young Canadians, it becomes apparent that there is a seeming disconnect between the political and the everyday lived experience of the individual. For many, it is not clear how talk on the Hill and pitches by politicians during election season result in tangible laws and policy. Much like the ivory tower of academia, politics is seen by youth as that thing that takes place only on Parliament Hill.

Minaeian, Sara Why I vote Aug 2015 patrick For many young Canadians, if the everyday is the “self,” then the political exists in the realm of the “other.” In this sense, political participation requires them to halt the regular proceeding of their lives and “do politics.” In other words, the political is abstract, and the very act of voting gets lost amid a sea of unspecified processes with unidentifiable outcomes in everyday life.

The irony is that youth are engaged. More often than not, I meet brilliant youth who are talking about challenges we face and how to solve them. They’re just disengaged with the institutional political process, because it very plainly “just doesn’t make sense” to them.

Since there is a lack of awareness about political processes, the vote becomes a daunting task. Where do I start to educate myself? What do the party platforms really mean? Am I fully informed?

I think that in saying voting is a lot of pressure, the student I spoke with was revealing something very interesting. The tension in the statement reveals that youth don’t want to mess up. Youth care, but want to make good choices. It’s just daunting to climb the tower to get there.

All that being said, we need to reify the political. Youth are seeking resources to help establish the connection between the everyday and the greater political institutions.

Voting is an integral part of an election, so the pressure to vote is absolutely needed. However, this need should be met with proactive efforts to educate young Canadians on the functionality of institutions and more forums on policy that are accessible. Young Canadians are smart, involved, and engaged. We just need to make sure we are mentoring the younger generation’s political understanding.

It is clear that many of my peers, as well as I, believe that more education is the solution for every citizen on policy, decision-making, and the role of politicians in elections. Promoting the vote is not only useful but essential. In increasing voter turnout, we will be able to test the full functionality of our political processes.

Sara Minaeian is a third-year Political Science student at the University of Ottawa, where she directs the iVote-jeVote campaign. She is interested in exploring the dynamics of identity politics and emerging technologies. She has been nominated for Samara Canada’s 2015 Everyday Political Citizen prize.

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Getting out the student vote

By Dan Allan

This October, more than 5,000 schools and 700,000 students from across Canada are expected to take part in the largest student parallel election ever conducted.

The participation of citizens in the electoral process is a central component of a healthy democracy. It can be argued that voting is our most basic responsibility as a democratic citizen.

Canada, like many western democracies, has seen a steady decline in voter turnout in the last two decades. Electoral participation reached an all-time low of 59 per cent in the 2008 federal election and increased only slightly to 61 per cent in 2011. Voter turnout in most provinces is hovering around 50 per cent.

Of even more concern is the fact that low voter turnout is disproportionately concentrated among young Canadians. This has serious implications for the future of Canadian democracy as the research suggests that habits of voting and non-voting persist over time and one of the best predictors of individual turnout is whether or not a person voted in the previous election.

CIVIX is a non-partisan, charitable organization building the capacity and commitment of young Canadians to participate in our democracy. We envision a healthy and robust democracy shaped by the active engagement of our youngest citizens.

Our flagship program, Student Vote, is a parallel election for students under the voting age, coinciding with official election periods. Students learn about government and the electoral process, and research the issues, parties and candidates through classroom learning, media consumption and campaign events. The program culminates with an authentic vote where students cast ballots on official election candidates running in their school’s riding.

“Student Vote uses the election as a teachable moment to bring the concepts of citizenship and democracy to life. Instead of studying about democracy from a textbook, students experience it first-hand with pertinent issues in realtime,” says Lindsay Mazzucco, Chief Operating Officer of CIVIX.
To date, 26 Student Vote parallel elections have been conducted across the country and more than 3 million ballots have been cast by young Canadians.The next Student Vote program is taking place in conjunction with the 2015 federal election scheduled for October 19, 2015. The program is free and open to all schools across Canada. Registration is open and will close on September 30.

Interested educators can learn more by visiting www.studentvote.ca or calling toll free: 1-866-488-8775.

Dan Allan is research and communications manager at CIVIX, a non-partisan organization building the capacity and commitment of young Canadians to participate in our democracy.

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Why I vote

By Jennifer MacNab

I will vote because I am a woman and voting will honour the women before me who sacrificed so much so I could vote. I will vote because I am a mother and I want the best country for my sons. I will vote because I know so many people around the world wish they had the freedom to vote that I am afforded. I will vote because every vote is important, including mine.

Jennifer MacNab is a thoughtful Glebe Report reader.

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Students at Glebe Collegiate get up close with democracy

By Ruth Kagan

This year, four students from Glebe Collegiate Institute (Wiam Akil, Miguel Fernandes, Jack Wadden and Gabriella Yankowich) accompanied by their teacher Ruth Kagan, and students and teachers from Sandalwood Heights Secondary School, met in Ottawa to present the results of the 2015 Student Budget Consultation.

They started the day with a private tour of the Centre Block of Parliament Hill. They then met with a team of analysts from Abacus Data, a national polling company. Alex Monk, the Director of Research, taught them the rudiments of how to present the key points of the results of the Student Budget Consultation.

Over a pizza lunch, Glebe students participate in a Student Budget Consultation. Photo courtesy of Ruth Kagan

Over a pizza lunch, Glebe students participate in a Student Budget Consultation. Photo courtesy of Ruth Kagan

After a pizza lunch, they had the incredible opportunity of meeting with Sean Speer, a special advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Each student presented a PowerPoint results slide. Next, the students met with representatives from the Department of Finance and shared the results with the Honourable Kevin Sorenson, the Minister of State (Finance).

They really enjoyed the day and learned a lot. These opportunities would not have occurred if not for the CIVIX organization, which is now organizing a Student Vote across the country for the federal election, which will take place in the fall.

I have once again signed up the 1,550 students at Glebe Collegiate to participate in this national voting activity. Glebe Collegiate has participated previously in the Student Vote for municipal, provincial and federal elections.

Ruth Kagan is a teacher at Glebe Collegiate Institute.
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