A Message for Young People: Vote

According to the Toronto Star, only 41 per cent of Toronto citizens voted in the municipal election on Monday October 22. Not only was Toronto’s most recent election a significantly low turnout, but it was specifically low for the 18-29 age demographic.

Historically, youth turnout has never been very high anywhere in the world, according to The Economist. There is not one North American or European country where young people vote more than older people of the demographic 65-years-old and up.

Why is this?

With the age of the Internet, the younger generation should be more informed than ever before, said the Huffington Post. We have 24/7 access to the news and social media, with everything we need to know about the world constantly available at our fingertips. We are more educated and socially, racially, and morally accepting than every generation born before us. Yet, we still remain to this day, the least represented voter demographic in every election.

We may feel as though we do not have as much at stake in society. Think about it, in 1970 the average woman was already married with children on the way before the age of 21, says The Economist. Nowadays, the average woman is 26 when she gets married and settles down. Because our generation has become more career focused, it takes us longer to enter the workforce due to the pursuing of post-secondary education and the acquisition of work experience.

We feel since we are not yet homeowners or parents, that politics does not apply to us; that it is for the older generation to invest in. However, by thinking that our vote does not matter and our issues are ignored, it only further perpetuates our political hopelessness.

Politicians aren’t addressing issues we care about - like student debt, sex education, transit fees, and so on - because they are trying to appeal to those who are voting.

Many young people complain about Doug Ford, for example. He is pro-life, opposed to the minimum wage increase, and is working to revert Kathleen Wynne’s sex education curriculum back to the original. Although youth protest his platform, they are a big reason for his election.

I constantly hear and see young people all over Toronto protesting and complaining about the decisions of our government. Every time I walk by them, I ask myself, “How many of you voted? How many of you had the opportunity to proactively prevent this issue from becoming a reality and decided to stay silent?” I think it to be too grand of a number.

The demographic with the highest voter turnout is wealthy, educated, white men over the age of 65.

In a video called “Dear Young People: Please Don’t Vote” members of the 65+ voter demographic explain to youth their political stance. “Everything’s fine the way it is. Trump … that was us. He’s our guy,” the actors say. “Tax cuts for the rich? Hell yeah, I’m rich … Climate change? That’s a ‘you problem.’ I’ll be dead soon. Sure, school shootings are sad, but I haven’t been in a school for 50 years.”

Think about it, they don’t care about student fees, environmental sustainability, or the current school curriculum. They are voting for the politicians whose platform suits the needs of their demographic. People vote for themselves, not for others. We cannot expect the elderly to make the decisions that determine our tomorrow. That is simply up to us.

If young people had the highest voter turnout, the tables would turn. Politicians would focus on the needs of young people and we would begin to see the changes we wish to see happen not only in our cities, but in our country as a whole.

Just remember, in 1867 and for many decades to follow, only white property owning males over the age of 21 were given the privilege to vote, said the Canadian Encyclopedia.

To all the young women in this country, I want you to remember the long history of women’s suffrage in this country and be aware of all the women who fought for our right to vote. It was as recent as 1918 that women got their right to vote in Canada. That was only one hundred years ago.

For years, women were denied their right to have a voice in this country and now we do. Let’s not take that for granted.

Before you look at your world around you and think about being upset about its current affairs, just ask yourself if you did anything to change them.

I encourage all of you to go out into the world and fight for what you believe in. Voting is simply the first step.