An article from Global Regina I read this morning argues that the lack of a key election issue will ensure that the trend towards lower voter turnouts will continue in the 41st General Election held May 2.
Without many key issues to draw people to the ballot box, poll after poll that shows only marginal shifts in the party vote percentages, and a general sense that as important as elections can be, that this one will change little, Global Regina sees these as strong trends towards low turnouts.
I wonder how much of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy? I am responding to Global’s article only to say how dangerous I feel stories like this are, being less about ‘news’ and more about projections. They negatively reinforce the feeling held by many that turnout will be low, and little will change. So why bother? I understand that stories like this can cut both ways (people can being energized to prove them wrong, or figure there is simply no point in voting), but I must say I don’t understand the need for them. Frankly, I find anything that suggests neutrally that voting turnout will be low without advocating against that outcome rather offensive.
First of all, there have been many key issues in this election: lack of respect for the democratic process, a historic contempt of Parliament ruling, the direction of government spending (fighter jets and prisons, for example), and many articulated views for the vision of Canada with respect to health care, the military, and the economy. And the presence of ‘key election issues’ have favoured the incumbent recently: the existence in 2008 of a key election issue in the Green Shift was of little help to Stephane Dion, for example. Neither was funding of religious schools as a key issue all that helpful to John Tory in Ontario in 2007.
Second of all, Global Regina also attempts to pinpoint youth apathy to voting as a key reason for the low turnouts without addressing the myriad of reasons why young people may shy away from voting. Vote Mobs are important, but they are the tip of the iceberg. At best, they demonstrate a renewed interest in the democratic process that will lead to a sweeping change amongst Canada’s young people; at worst, they are a cute side story to the ‘real’ campaign.
Rather than blame youth, I would suggest that our political system find better ways to engage young voters by actually speaking to them, rather than throwing them a bone in the form of education promises, if that. Young people care about education, to be sure, but to assume that youth voters are a single-issue voting bloc is as naive as assuming seniors are a single-issue voting bloc regarding health care.
This will blow everyone’s mind: I am a youth voter, and I care about more than education. So stop ignoring me, or assuming I am incapable of concern for issues that effect my country if not me directly. You would be surprised by what millions of us can do.
A great one-stop-shop for election and political information for the uninformed young voter is ApathyIsBoring.com. I would recommend it to anyone new the political game, but figures that now is as good a time as any to get involved.