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Federal election results frustrating students

by Laura Marchand October 27, 2015

A polling station on SGW campus. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Young voters say they don’t feel their voices are being heard at ballot boxes

According to Elections Canada, voter turnout jumped over seven per cent from 2011—and the Liberals seemed to have raked in the benefits, sweeping the nation with a Liberal majority with 39.5 per cent of the popular vote.

Some credit the increase to pilot programs such as student voting stations, which allowed students on campus to vote for any riding across the country. More than 70,000 electors voted this way—but in the wake of another sweeping majority, some find themselves again questioning the point in casting their ballots at all.

Kay, a student who volunteered for their NDP candidate, sees the result as a consequence of the current electoral system, which encourages strategic voting and discounts the majority of ballots cast. (Kay’s real name has not been used to protect their career in politics.)

“So many wasted votes don’t elect anyone,” said Kay. “They serve as ineffective, wasted votes, and it breeds cynicism and it breeds discontent and apathy when it comes to politics. And they feel like their vote doesn’t actually count, because it doesn’t. Fifty-one per cent of people—their votes went nowhere, and went on to elect no one in this election.”

“I think [electors] were voting for what they didn’t want rather than for what they did want,” said Raha Aras, VP of communications for NDP Concordia. “So [they’re] voting out of fear rather than support.”

Carl Bindman worked for an NDP candidate before returning to school as a student. “People wanted to get rid of Harper and we had to lose for that to happen,” said Bindman. “It’s shitty for sure, but I can’t blame myself for that. I can’t be angry at people for having political will.”

Although the Liberal party has promised overhauls of the political system, Kay is sceptical that they will implement a proportional representation voting system.

“The experience in Australia [which uses a ranked ballot system] is that centrist parties get a bump,” said Kay. “Which is possibly why the Liberals like the ranked ballot: because they’d be a lot of voters’ second choice, when they’re not necessarily people’s first choice.”

Now, some students and NDP supporters find themselves struggling to justify their vote.

“A lot of young people feel like their voices don’t matter,” said Bindman. “Before I did this I would’ve said that voting is super important and all of that. But having seen what happens, and what can happen, voting seems pretty inconsequential … It’s complicated. I’m not sure how I feel. Voting matters but I don’t know why.”

“I have no idea why I keep voting,” said Kay. “But I’ll continue to vote. I feel like it’s my duty. It is meaningful. You can impact the result—but you can’t impact the result much, in this electoral system, especially if you’re voting for a third or fourth-place party. And that’s very frustrating.”

“[If] many students who choose to not vote … feel that the party they support will never have a chance at winning, then they are just perpetuating that system,” said Aras. “[But I think] not voting on the basis of ‘my vote doesn’t make a difference’ is like giving up.”

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