It feels like the first time: some Calgarians preparing to cast their first ballot

Rock the Vote: Maddy O’Toole looks over the voter information guide in Calgary on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. O’Toole is voting in an election for the first time and is undecided as to who she will vote for. (Photo by Brennan Black/The Press)

First-time voters are feeling both excited and nervous as the Oct. 21 federal election draws closer.

People who have turned 18, and those who have gained citizenship since the last election are among those who are eligible to vote for the first time.

“I’m feeling anxious, excited, frustrated, optimistic, I’m really just going through all of the emotions,” said Maddy O’Toole, a Mount Royal University student, who is voting for the first time since reaching legal voting age.

While Canadian citizens, like O’Toole, get the right to vote at age 18, those who have gained Canadian citizenship after immigrating to the country said voting for the first time is even more special.

“The sense of it as a privilege and a right is more apparent,” said Natasha Brubaker, an Anglican priest who hails from the United States.

Brubaker said Canada is her chosen home, so having the right to vote here for the first time carries a different emotional feeling.

Others who have had the right to vote in Canada for many years but have chosen not to do so, are choosing to vote for the first time.

David Peeters, a warehouse supervisor who has been eligible to vote for almost two decades, said he plans to cast a ballot for the first time in this election, though he can’t pinpoint exactly why he came to this decision.

Peeters said he has heard people say things like if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain, so he wants to be able to say he participated.

“I guess I just want to feel justified in my complaining,” said Peeters.

While the first-time voters said the deluge of signs with smiling faces on red, blue, green, and orange backgrounds still has them pondering who to vote for, they said the government has done a good job informing them on how to vote.

The Elections Canada website has all of the information that voters need to know, such as where their polling station is, and it has been running ads to tell voters where to find this information.

O’Toole said the constant radio, television, and print ads have told her exactly how and where to vote.

Like returning voters, the first-time voters have issues that they would like to see covered by the parties.

Both O’Toole and Brubaker said climate change, Indigenous rights, and health care are issues that they have been monitoring throughout the campaign.

Peeters said he is more of a one-issue voter, with that one issue being free speech.

“To properly discuss issues, we need the freedom to speak openly without the fear of reprisal,” said Peeters.

O’Toole and Brubaker said they have not had much engagement with their candidates.

Brubaker said not one candidate has knocked on her door yet, but she said this could be attributed to the lawn sign she has had since the day the writ dropped.

O’Toole said the candidates could be doing more to target her demographic, otherwise young people will either vote the same way as their parents, vote the opposite in order to rebel, or just stay home.

According to Elections Canada, only 57.1 per cent of voters in O’Toole’s 18 to 24 age group turned out to vote in the 2015 federal election.

O’Toole said the parties really need to start nudging young voters more because a lot of them don’t care, and realistically a lawn sign, or letter in the mail was not going to change their apathy.

As for the outcome of the upcoming election, the voters had a couple of predictions for how things may turn out.

Both O’Toole and Peeters said they predicted a Conservative victory is in the offing, but neither said they were confident in that prediction.

Brubaker, who said she is voting for the Green Party, predicted a Liberal minority government that could form a coalition with the Greens and the NDP.

The sense of it as a privilege and a right is more apparent. – Natasha Brubaker

O’Toole said she has not yet made up her mind as to who she will vote for, but one party is definitely not under consideration.

“I know for a fact, I ain’t voting Conservative,” said O’Toole.

Peeters said he will be casting a blank ballot because none of the leaders have inspired much confidence in him.

“I wouldn’t trust any of them to watch my dog for the weekend, let alone run my country,” said Peeters.

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