October 21, 2019

Conestoga Students Incorporated (CSI) has joined a nationwide effort to get more students to the ballot box in the upcoming federal election.

An announcement made earlier this month said they will be one of 36 students’ associations taking part in the “Get Out the Vote” campaign, a non-partisan voter drive organized by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).

“We want the student voice out there,” CSI president Scot Wyles said in an interview.

As part of the campaign, the CSI board of directors has been approaching students in person and online, asking them to pledge to vote – a tactic that may increase the likelihood a student will show up at the polls.

Adam Brown, the chair of CASA, said “studies have shown that having a person promise to vote, especially to a peer, is an effective way of ensuring that they show up on voting day.”

If students pledge online at getoutthevote.ca, they will also be reminded of election-related events around the college.

Other get-out-the-vote initiatives at Conestoga are in the planning stages, said Wyles.

For example, campus polling stations are scheduled to be available in advance of the Oct. 21 election date. Wyles couldn’t say exactly when they would be open, but he said it will likely be sometime during the first week of October.

Around 109 colleges and universities will also have access to on-campus polling stations this year according to Elections Canada, far surpassing the 39 available in 2015.

Their website notes that “youth have historically had rates of electoral participation below the average,” and that campus polling stations are aimed at turning that trend around.

And it appears to be working: their data shows that slightly over 57 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 voted in 2015, which is an 18 perecentage point increase from 2011. However, they were still the least likely of all age groups to cast their vote.

CSI is also trying to organize an all-candidates debate at the college, featuring the would-be MPs of the local Kitchener South-Hespeler riding.

“We hope all of them come out,” said Wyles, adding that it’s important for students to know the issues and where candidates stand on them.

Millennials will be the largest group of voters this year, according to Stats Canada data. They now make up around 27 per cent of the population.

The first Get Out the Vote campaign ran in 2015. CASA says it gathered 42,000 student pledges in that election.

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