Student? Voting? Good luck...

Is there a conspiracy to keep young voters from voting? Looking at the barriers that keep us away from the polls, one could argue that there is. Conspiracy or not, established political parties certainly don't want to shake up the status quo.

A study by EKOS Research Associates in Ottawa found that more than 50 per cent of the electorate under the age of 45 does not vote. Rates drop even lower when analyzing student turnout. Consequently, younger people — students especially — are of no concern to political parties. Of course, being ignored by political parties further alienates us, leaving us no alternative than to be disinterested and disenfranchised.

Zoomer Magazine, published by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), bragged about the impact older Canadians had in the 2011 federal election. To quote, "With a strong majority government and an official Opposition party that was even more expansive on our priorities, there should be no excuse for not acting on these pressing issues." CARP's pressing issues include elder abuse, Canadian Pension Plan reform, caregiver support, the elimination of mandatory retirement and guaranteed income supplement — not exactly on the top of the priority list for most youth and student populations.

CARP polled older voters to find their most important issues for the upcoming provincial election. The budget deficit received greatest priority, followed by electricity prices, the HST, wait times for surgery, government drug coverage, property taxes and access to home care and long-term care. All fair priorities, but again not geared toward our generation. Yet election advertising and campaign platforms almost exclusively target these 'old' issues.

So what, then, are the 'youth' issues? Feel free to disagree, but I'm worried about environmental degradation and skyrocketing tuition costs — not just for me, but also for my son. How responsible is it to ignore the consequences of our lack of action now, passing the buck to our children, who will no doubt struggle more than we do to cover the cost of education, and work doubly hard to reverse the geological damage that we and preceding generations have caused? More immediately, I'm concerned about entering the unstable job force after two to seven years of 'higher education' carrying a mound of debt with diminishing prospects for employment. More frightening yet, amid the economic uncertainty is the systematic stripping away of social services and supports for those — young and old — struggling to stay on the right path.

I could go on, but clearly even at the most basic level, young people are affected by different issues and guided by a distinct worldview. However, because we don't cast ballots, presumably we don't care, and if we don't care, we might not realize if no one stops to care about us — so the logic of a political party goes.

I consider myself lucky; I know enough to care, and I care enough to vote. Most of my colleagues are too busy to bother — I get it, balancing class (if you go), work (if you can find it), sleeping in the library (if it's not too loud to think), Ceeps (if you don't have an exam, or even if you do — just go easy) and 12-hour Call of Duty sessions is unimaginably tough. Add homework and study every couple of weeks and I'm ready for a breakdown. Who can stop to think about the future of our country? Worse yet, for those who do stop to think about it, the voting process can sometimes be bewildering and discouraging. Students or others living away from home will have more difficulty voting. They can vote in advanced polls in their home riding — that is, if they can make time to travel home, do the leg-work, find the returning office and ditch Mom, who hasn't seen her baby in weeks. Election day, October 6, is a Thursday — I have a mid-term and a paper due — great, so I'm not driving home to vote.

Conversely, we can vote in our current riding (Western — probably London North Centre; Fanshawe — probably London- Fanshawe; but with the way they draw electoral boundaries, who can be certain). Without the guarantee of a voter's card telling us where to go to vote (almost always the case with students living away from home), how are we supposed to know where to vote? Go to and enter your postal code — with what time?! And forget about researching party platforms and candidate profiles — with so many chapters to read and pages to write, why would I waste my time reading about all the great stuff every party is going to do for old people?

Statistics Canada surveyed potential voters for the May 2, 2011 federal election. When asked, 30 per cent of us (youth aged 18 to 24) indicated we weren't interested in voting (for good reasons), 23 per cent were too busy (again, for good reasons) and 11 per cent said they were out of town or away. Sixty-four per cent of us willingly muted ourselves. Knowing the difficulties that many first-time voters will face in the Ontario provincial election, it would not be surprising if the youth turnout mirrored the federal election.

As our contemporaries across the Atlantic protest in Europe about cuts to social services, unprecedented lay-offs and sky-rocketing costs of education, and thousands more rose up across the Middle East and North Africa, speaking out loudly, fighting, even dying for the right to cast a ballot and shape their government, we just didn't have time.

Once again, older voters will have more power and influence and younger voters will sacrifice our voice. To be honest though, I plan on being here a lot longer than my grandparents, as much as I love them, so five minutes out of one day to shape the world I am going to live in for the rest of my life seems like a relatively simple opportunity cost analysis to even the amateur economist.

There may or may not be a 'conspiracy' to prevent us youth from voting, but if we do not break the cycle and stand up for ourselves, I don't expect that anyone else will.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.