University of Lethbridge students, professor on getting more young people to vote in federal election

Click to play video: 'University of Lethbridge students encouraging young peers to vote' University of Lethbridge students encouraging young peers to vote
The federal election is less than a week away, and young people have historically had lower voter turnout when compared to their older counterparts. Eloise Therien has a look at some of the reasons for this and what Lethbridge's university community is doing to encourage students to vote – Sep 15, 2021

According to Elections Canada, the 18-24 age group had the lowest voter turnout in the 2019 federal election at 53.9 per cent.

Comparatively, those aged 65-74 had the highest turnout at 79.1 per cent.

Lars Hallstrom, a political science professor at the University of Lethbridge and director of the Prentice Institute, said there are several contributing factors to those numbers.

Read more: Liberals, Conservatives in dead heat as campaign enters final week: poll

While the overall voter turnout has increased over the last decade, he said younger people are still falling behind.

“One of the first things we maybe want to note is our demographics when it comes to voting,” said Hallstrom of Alberta’s population specifically. “We have a gender-based gap. [Men] tend to vote less than women.
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“If you’re not working, you’re quite likely to be at university or college, which may prevent a very simple structural barrier to voting. There may not be voting stations on campus, for example.”

Read more: Canada election results: Lethbridge

Hallstrom explained the older population likely has more time on their hands while the middle demographics are more inclined to have their schedules set.

“Many people who are in their 30s or 40s or 50s have a fairly consolidated routine,” he explained. “The nature of employment is different. They’re not as likely to be working in a gig economy. They’re not as likely to be juggling multiple jobs or multiple jobs and school.”

Read more: How the closing arguments of the 2021 election reflect where we are as a country

Ryan Lindblad, vice-president of external affairs with the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union, said the organization is trying to encourage as many students as possible to cast their ballots.

“We actually had a bus that was running students to the Elections Canada office,” he said. “The great advantage of that is when you vote in an Elections Canada office, you can essentially vote anywhere in Canada as long as you can prove you have a residency there.

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“We’ll also be having buses running at two different times during elections day, [taking] students to the nearest polling station.”
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Decision Canada 2021: Lethbridge federal candidates discuss platforms ahead of 2021 election – Sep 13, 2021

The ULSU held a candidate forum on Tuesday evening, which only saw two out of six local candidates attend: Devon Hargreaves with the Liberal party and independent Kim Siever.

Read more: Voter fatigue not expected to impact Lethbridge municipal election: political scientist

Despite the lower candidate attendance, Lindblad was happy with the student participation.

“We were able to get a lot of engagement from both students who were attending in person, as well as some online questions from students who were watching it via our Facebook feed,” he said. “I think it was overall a really great experience for students to be able to interact with some of the candidates.”

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“Getting people started is really important because it lays the foundation for voting throughout subsequent demographic phases,” Hallstrom said.

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President of the Association of Political Science Students Samantha Scott said it’s unfortunate there won’t be voting on campus this year, as some students seem to feel apathy and that their vote won’t matter.

“I think that a lot of campaigns are not necessarily campaigning towards younger people, and so the issues they feel don’t affect them as much,” Scott said.

“I do know that people have problems getting informed about stuff, and they just kind of don’t care, which sucks because we are the future,” she added.

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