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An Elections Canada pamphlet (Ivan Castagna)

UBC advance polls encourage youth engagement

The university’s student society is using an influencer model to try to get more young people to the polls

By Mia Calder and Ivan Castagna , in Elections , on October 19, 2019

The high turnout during advance polls may not be a predictor for this year’s federal election, but the student society at the University of B.C. is hoping young people show up in record numbers as they did in 2015. 

“One of the best things about a campus like UBC and about students is that [students] are a lot more engaged than people give credit for,” said Cristina Ilnitchi, vice-president of external affairs at the UBC Alma Mater Society.

Cristina Ilnitchi, vice-president at the University of B.C. Alma Mater Society. (Mia Calder)

Elections Canada hosted advance polling stations at the university Oct. 5 to 9. This was just one of the measures taken by UBC to engage young voters this election season.

The student society also ran an awareness campaign called UBC Votes 2019.

They put up posters, did class demonstrations, held information sessions, and even set up a live feed with Global TV to watch the leaders debate.

“We had [a] huge turnout for the federal leaders’ debate, around 300 to students. There’s this notion that young people don’t vote, [which] is an unfortunate narrative and one I think youth are going to turn on its head this year,” said Ilnitchi.

Young voters turned out in historically high numbers during the last federal election, but they typically vote less than older groups or even the national average.

2019 voter button. (Mia Calder)

The latest push to encourage eligible voters was an influencer-model campaign, where students pose for a “photo shoot with [a] poster that says ‘I’m voting with… I’m voting for…’ and [they] post [it] on their social media to spark a conversation on what matters to them,” said Ilnitchi.

The society has also created a website where students can learn more about party platforms, how to vote, and why it’s important to vote, in an effort to make that information as easily digestible as possible.

“I really hope we see increased youth voter turnout,” said Ilnitchi. “I think from what we’ve seen with advanced voter turnout — it’s already increased — it’s given us a lot of hope,” she said. 

According to Elections Canada, the number of advance voters across Canada has jumped an estimated 29 per cent from the last election. 

“Youth — young Canadians — have a lot of power with their vote,” said Ilnitchi. “As long as we turn out at the polls, we can’t be ignored.”