AMS works to increase student turnout in provincial elections

With the BC provincial elections coming up in the summer, AMS VP External Kathleen Simpson has been working on a campaign to make the election more accessible to students.

“The provincial elections may not sound as exciting as the federal elections do, but I think that in some ways, it’s even more relevant to students,” said Simpson. “The provincial government is the one that sets student loan interest rates, deals with transit and the U-Pass program, [and handles] housing.”

In order to increase awareness of relevant elections issues, the VP External Office has run campaigns about affordability and housing rights, as well as hosted town halls with topics such as pipelines and political fundraising.

Simpson has been working with BC Elections to come up with a non-partisan engagement plan. So far, the plan includes posters, a social media strategy and a video to be released after Block Party.

One thing that they are still working on is how to reach students who are eligible to vote in the election, but may not be in BC at the time voting takes place. So far, they have managed to secure an early-voting station in the Nest in addition to the normal voting station.

Their goal is to reach a voter turnout that is as high as the last federal election turnout. Across Canada, the overall voter turnout rate was 68.3 per cent. There was also a dramatic increase in youth voters, with a 67 per cent turnout rate.

Turnout for provincial elections has traditionally been lower. In 2013, 55.32 per cent of eligible voters voted, a small increase from the 50.99 per cent that voted in 2009.

“In the past, there’s always been this idea that young people don’t vote,” said Simpson. “That is not true for university students. University students, I would argue, are voting at similar rates to everyone else.”

Studies have shown that low youth voter turnout rates are not due to apathy, as the common perception seems to be, but rather due to accessibility to polling stations or feeling like they don’t have sufficient knowledge to vote.

Simpson has made accessibility and education important parts of the campaign for the upcoming provincial elections, and cites the effectiveness of voting campaigns aimed at students.

“Voting rates in high school are considered to be quite high and it’s partly because you have an institution or groups that [promote] voting to those students.”

The early voting station in the Nest will open on April 29, and regular province-wide voting will begin on May 9. Anyone who is a Canadian citizen and has been living in BC for the past six months is eligible to vote.