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Young Voters Must Turn Online Discussion Into Offline Action

10/09/2015 05:27 EDT | Updated 10/18/2016 05:12 EDT
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There have been numerous reports and studies done on how to get young people engaged in politics. You can read them for yourself. There is a plethora of government-funded, peer-reviewed hypothesis from people who hadn't fallen into that demographic in decades on the problems with these darn kids these days.

Canadian youth haven't given up on politics. They discuss it on social media, debating with their friends and family online about policy implementation and other issues. Youth between the ages of 18 and 24 use social media a lot and strongly discuss policies and issues, which is more than the amount of Canadian youth that voted in the previous election. They have given up on expressing their opinions, not between themselves, but to the politicians because often times this dialogue is a one-way street.

Campaigning to young Canadians is the million dollar question. We hold enough numbers to be a substantive voting bloc but yet we are so diverse and disconnected from the process that the power that we hold in our hands is diluted. This election a huge array of different groups attempted to solve this problem by using technology as a tool to mobilize young Canadians to get to the polls and on October 19 we're going to see if it worked.

The most known online tool is CBC and Radio-Canada's Vote Compass to help youth narrow down the leader and the party that they identify the most with by answering a questionnaire. They have done this in order to help voters make a decision come October 19.

In addition to CBC & Radio-Canada, VoteSavvy is conducting "votemobs" across the country's universities to mobilize youth to the polls through viral videos. Pollenize, a mobile app that was previously used for the Toronto municipal election and for the Chicago election, created a Canadian federal version in order to share each leader's biographies and platforms. I CAN Party shared each party's platform regarding the most discussed issues of the election and Apathy is Boring continues to inform communities across the country about the importance of voting.

Additionally, there are tons of smaller groups using social media campaigns to inform voters along with larger organizations such as the Council of Canadians, Lead Now and the Dogwood Initiative. There are even large scale partisan movements across the country that are focusing on strategic voting that base their campaign on the belief that anyone but Harper should be elected as the next prime minister.

We at VoteNote decided on a different approach by simply solving the question of information accessibility. The Fair Elections Act hampered Elections Canada ability to promote the vote in many ways so our reasoning was to give people all the tools they need in the way they want in order to be as ready as possible this coming election. We have incorporated all the different steps regarding how to register and how to vote, as well as a GPS locator to identify your riding and the candidates representing themselves within your riding.

We also tried to localize the politics by focusing on the candidates in the riding vs. the party leaders. After all, it's those names you are going to see on the ballot and technically this is a representative democracy where we elect a candidate to represent our riding.

Someone once told us that this would be disturbing the status quo, but like Uber, Amazon and even Tinder, isn't that what technology is supposed to do?

Rick Mercer said it best: "It is the conventional wisdom of all political parties that young people will not vote." He also said that they like it that way.

Mercer isn't wrong in some way. Young Canadians aren't helping our cause by not showing their faces at the polls and letting politicians focus on people who actually do vote. In fact, we wouldn't be writing this article if this weren't the case. The youth voter turnout rate for the last election was a dismal 38.8 per cent of eligible voters. With their limited budgets and limited time, is it really the candidate's fault for not trying harder to entice young Canadians to get to the polls?

Youth are inherently optimistic. We have to be since we are looking into a future that we know we will inherit. The only way we are going to see politics tap into that optimism is by getting out and physically voting and that's one problem technology can't solve... yet.

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