LUSU elections are quickly approaching – remind yourself of the importance of voting
Brandy Bond, Staff Writer
When it comes to voting, whether it be for government or student elections, voter turnout for younger people has been traditionally low. Some say it’s because students and young people believe that their vote doesn’t matter. However, the federal election of 2015 saw an exponential increase in the young voter turnout rate. This begs the question: what has changed?
During the 2015 federal election the biggest increase in voters was seen in the 18 to 24-year-old age group. The turnout rate among this group increased by 18.3 percent, resulting in a 57.1 percent turnout of young voters, which was a drastic increase from the 38.8 percent turnout in the 2011 election. Many believe the significant increase of the votes can be attributed to the Liberal party’s youth focused campaign that spoke to a lot of the concerns of young voters. However, it could also be that the real motivation to get out and vote came from the constant visits to university and college campus’, which allowed students to ask questions and feel as though their voices were being heard. Thunder Bay’s LUSU Vice President, Lindsay Kelly, also believes this notion applies to LUSU elections, suggesting that gaining voters comes from doing more work on the ground rather than online.
In contrast to the 2015 federal election, the turnout for student voters at the last LUSU election was staggeringly low. Kelly believes that the low turnout wasn’t necessarily a true reflection of student interests in politics on campus, but rather, as a student herself she recognizes that the student population is “under a phenomenal amount of pressure between classes and extracurricular.” She suggests that these commitments affects many students’ prioritization of student politics.
Additionally, when asked during an interview why Kelly thinks the voter rates are so low, she replied, “something that I hear a lot during elections is about apathy and I don’t think students are apathetic, I think students are engaged and educated or their looking to get educated. Again, I think its prioritizing.” This statement may ring true for many people can understand how busy the life of a student can be, however, the importance of participation, especially pertaining to student unions, cannot be undermined. It is crucial to get students involved in an organization that affects their daily lives. Kelly believes engaging students in meaningful conversation is the key component to increasing student awareness as well as voter turnout. She added, “we are such a social media engaged generation that I think sometimes bringing it back to the basics sometimes helps even more. There’s so much coming at us that it makes it really easy to put the blinders on.”
Although it is commonly perceived that young voters don’t care, it is evident that they do when feel as though they are being heard. Students know what they want, and they ultimately know what influences them to take the time to vote. We are more than a purely tech-reliant generation and are very much capable of appreciating and recognizing the importance of meaningful conversation. Kelly emphasized the importance of conversation in regard to increasing political awareness noting, “people are always going to remember a conversation over a post.” She also offered a reminder to those participating in any form of politics that the “work doesn’t stop after you get elected or once you get into that position. Again, it’s about bringing it back down to the bare bones of the issues and remembering that students want to see what they consider to be their big concerns and just simply get out there.”