Voter turnout in the 2015 federal election was up overall, but the number of young adult voters rose significantly.
This was attributed to the Get Out The Vote campaign, a national initiative led by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, which had the goal of reaching and educating students at more than 20 universities and colleges.
The campaign seems to have played a significant role in the increased turnout.
For Canadians aged 18 to 24, the number of voters rose 12 percentage points to 77 per cent compared to the 2011 election, reports a study by Statistics Canada released in February.
“The Get Out The Vote campaign on SAIT campus resulted in more than 600 pledges from students who otherwise wouldn’t have pledged,” said Lambie Carruthers, an employee for SAIT’s students’ association (SAITSA).
Carruthers, who facilitated the event, attributed the increase in young adult voters to the campaign.
“I truly believe the Get Out The Vote campaign was a factor in the spike of young voters this past election.”
There were 22 post-secondary institutions in Canada that participated in the campaign.
Joshua Bettle, SAITSA’s vice-president external, said Get Out The Vote was successful at SAIT because it clarified misconceptions about the process, but the bigger impact to turnout came from the nature of the election.
“The campaign seemed to be geared towards a younger narrative,” said Bettle, who is in his second term. “Appealing to a younger crowd helped get more young people involved.”
The Statistics Canada survey revealed that across all ages, voter turnout rose to 77 per cent in 2015 from 70 per cent in 2011.
Turnout in Alberta increased by 11 percentage points.
For Canadians aged 18 to 34 who did not vote, 30 per cent of respondents said they were too busy to cast a ballot.
“I think young adults who claim they are too busy to vote feel that way because they are unaware of the impact they have as voters and so it’s not a priority,” Carruthers said.
“Education is everything. If they knew the shift their votes as a whole would make in the democratic process, I think they would find time to vote.”
For upcoming elections, Carruthers said Get Out The Vote is the best approach to encourage young adult participation.
“I think it was an excellent tool and it can be even more successful now that we know what worked, what didn’t work and what we can do next time to make it even more effective,” she said.
I truly believe the Get Out The Vote campaign was a factor in the spike of young voters this past election. – Lambie Carruthers
Bettle said other ways to encourage students to vote include setting up campus polling stations and to “make it feel like an easier process.”
In the end, the goal is to encourage more Canadians to vote, Bettle said.
“By not voting, basically you’re just agreeing with the people who do vote,” he said.