This article will hit newsstands on the same day as Ontario’s 42nd general election. I’ll be making my way to the polls, but a large number of Ontarians, specifically younger adults, won’t be.
Ontario’s election turnouts are among the lowest in the country. A dismal 51 per cent of Ontarians showed up to the 2014 Ontario vote, not terribly far off from a frankly embarrassing 43 per cent who cast their ballot in the 2011 election.
To make matters worse, only 34 per cent of young people, aged 18 to 24, said they bothered to vote in the 2014 election. While new reports have found that millennials are becoming more mindful of their democratic right, only about 43 per cent of young Ontarians said they were “extremely likely” to vote in the 2018 provincial election.
This will the first provincial election in which more millennials will be eligible to vote than baby boomers. That means young people have a significant amount of power to take issues that are important to them into their own hands.
The fact is, a large portion of the issues at stake in the June 7 election are ours to lose. Transit plans, talks of student debt relief, health and dental coverage and environmental impacts are among the many issues that will affect young people this election, and for that matter, voting is integral.
So, why aren’t young people voting?
There are several reasons why young people may think their vote doesn’t matter, or that they’re lacking the information to properly exercise our democratic right.
Young people are reportedly twice as likely to believe that they can’t cast their vote because they don’t think that they’re registered on a voter list. They’re also 51 per cent more likely to say that we lack enough information to make an informed decision during an election.
Some reports say that the explanation behind this mentality may rest in the lack of exposure to traditional mainstream media. 40 per cent of young people say that they rely on social media as a political news source, while roughly 57 per cent of all adults say they rely on mainstream media, including newspapers, and TV for their political coverage.
At this point, these are genuinely insufficient excuses.
There are various initiatives that are pushing the youth vote. Elections Ontario launched an e-registration platform that allows users to check and edit their information online. The McMaster Students Union held an all candidates debate on May 29. Various organizations are coming together to encourage young people to get informed.
As for the lack of knowledge regarding candidate information, it is genuinely easier than ever to review a candidate’s platform online. Some outlets have even compiled and organized information from each major candidate’s platform, making research a simple task.
For democracy to work properly, people need to cast a ballot. With stakes as high as they are in this election, it is more important than ever to let your voice be heard. On June 7, vote as you please, but please vote.
[CORRECTION: on June 7, we published that McMaster University hosted an all candidates debate on May 29. However, the debate was fully funded by the McMaster Students Union.]