What can we do when we can’t offer drugs to young voters?

It’s election time again, and consistently when elections roll around, we ask how do we get those young voters out to cast a ballot. In the 2015 federal election, the overall voter turnout rate for the 18–24 age group increased to 57.1 per cent, a rise of 18 percentage points from 2011. Turnout also went up among those aged 25–34, increasing from 45.1 per cent in 2011 to 57.4 per cent in 2015. While turnout rates increased for all age groups in 2015, the largest upswings were recorded by the 18–24 and 25–34 age groups. Some people suspect the upswing in young voters for the 2015 election was literally because we could offer them drugs. Decriminalizing marijuana was, quite likely, the best thing we could offer the youth to get them out to vote. Now the problem is how do we bring them back out. It’s highly unlikely that we are going to offer them more drugs. Cannabis was the friendly face of the illicit drug world. Is there a political party in Canadian politics who would offer up legalized opiates for a few more votes from the youngsters? How about legalizing some hallucinogenic drugs to get those young voters? I don’t think so. I think most of us can agree that taking advantage of addictive substances is not the best way to fill the ballot box. So, what is a drug-free way to entice younger voters to get out and perform their civic duty? Each election I hear people suggest we enforce voting with fines like they do in Australia. An Australian who does not vote receives a $20 fine if they don’t have a good excuse for not voting. My problem with fining non-voters is that I believe uninformed votes are as bad, or worse, than not voting. I’m not a fan of voters who stick by a party without listening to what is being said during the campaign either. How many times have you heard someone say, “I didn’t know they were going to do that”, when a newly-elected official actually follows through on a promise they were talking about all through their campaign? I’ve heard it plenty of times. The campaign is on now. It’s time to listen. So, how do we reach younger people? Perhaps we could move away from this antiquated notion that we get wiser as we get older. Some of us do, that’s true, but some of us don’t. By the same token I don’t think we can say that young people don’t possess good leadership skills. Some youth have the leadership skills needed to participate in the political arena before they leave school. I think we should probably let them in. The best way to attract youth to vote might be by allowing them to participate. Don’t just go after their vote. I’ve seen municipal councils looking to harness the spirited ideas that youth are coming up with in their communities. Young people have always been coming up with powerful ideas, so it might be time for politicians to acknowledge that and stop pretending you must grow old before the good ideas start popping into your brain. Since we can’t drug the youth, we should involve the youth. Seriously, who else can understand the youth except other youth. Every generation has its quirks, and it’s a fact that most people involved in politics were born before the rise of the internet. So, how are we going to connect with the youth when we use apps and technology they have designed, to share memes about how great it was back in the day? Face it, you probably like young people, and the things they contribute to our world. Despite the youth voter surge in turnout in 2015, it might be good to note that youth voter participation remained below the national average of 66.1 per cent. Even drugs could not get them too excited. Perhaps they’ll get each other excited in a way us old folks just can’t.

What can we do when we can’t offer drugs to young voters? was last modified: September 18th, 2019 by Tammy Schneider

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