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Voting and Millennials: Rebut This

Millennials have seen the lowest voting turnout rate since 2004. Why aren’t we voicing our opinions in politics?

If you didn’t vote, I’m not going to blame you. You’ve set your prerogative – whether it was the spin class you couldn’t miss, the late shift at work, or the dentist appointment you accidentally booked on the same day. But is it really “just one day” that you’ve let slip through the cracks? Not likely. For most of us, when E-Day passes we will not engage in politics – well, at least not for another four years.

The problem with elections is that many Canadians are only submerged in details during the few months of candidates’ campaigns, prior to the anticipated Election Day. Media become obsessed with all things politics, and social media flows with ‘he said, she said’ sound bites. It’s within these few months that we decide if we’re going to vote or not, and often – if nothing peaks our interest – the dentist appointment overrules.

Here’s the bigger issue: most of the non-voters are millennials. Canadians aged 18 to 33 have seen the lowest voting turnout rate since 2004. That’s not to say we aren’t engaged. We’re advancing technology, starting innovative companies, and reestablishing corporate culture. We’re changing the landscape of society, and we’re challenging the boomers to change with it. So, why aren’t we voicing our opinions in politics? Why are we leaving it to someone else?

Here’s why: we don’t care. We haven’t been able to make a laudable connection to politics to keep us in the game. But we’re making excuses – and with excuses, come rebuttals.

The Five Voting Rebuttals

1. “My vote won’t make a difference.” It will – every vote counts. Canada has seen a number of painstakingly close elections, including ties. During the Quebec general election of 1994 there was a tie in Saint-Jean between incumbent Liberal candidate Michel Charbonneau and PQ candidate Roger Paquin. A new vote had to be held later, where Paquin won by 532 votes. Even in the 1800s Thomas Jefferson was elected by only one vote by the House of Representatives after he tied in the Electoral College. Your vote counts.

2. “Politics isn’t my thing.” Well, it is. Political issues are all around us: education, healthcare, taxes, retirement, safety, childcare, roads, transit, employment — democracy has made it possible for us to affect change in all of these areas. 

3. Politics is sketchy.” Sure, it can be filled with lies, deception and construed information – just like some (not all) media that portray it – but it can also be genuine, legitimate and meaningful. There’s always going to be devious players in the game, so take stand and help get them out of our way.

4. I don’t know enough.” Learn! Get engaged by attending debates and meetings, or volunteering for a campaign. Canvassing is the most honest and transparent way to learn where other Canadians’ heads are at. Look to media for help along the way, but you absolutely cannot rely on them as your only source.

5. I’m happy the way things are.” According to a 2014 Gen-Y Attitudes research study, nearly half of millennials say they are satisfied with life, yet over 50 percent agree that older Canadians do not understand how difficult things are in their generation. The disconnect between boomers and millennials could improve through policy. Sure, we’re satisfied, but since when do millennials settle?

Democracy is a beautiful thing. It’s always been here for millennials, but it doesn’t mean it always will be. Next time you find yourself complaining about the government because of your high debt, sky-rocketing insurance costs, or long wait times at the walk-in clinic, try to remember one thing you’ve done to try and improve it. If you can, then keep us proud. If you can’t, then you really don’t care – or let’s hear your rebuttal.

by

Jade Towle

Jade is a contributing writer at The Reply. As a PR consultant and published journalist, she loves to tell stories -- whether it's pitching new angles to media or engaging with friends over a few glasses of wine. She currently works at MAVERICK, a communications and public relations boutique, where she provides strategic communications and media relations expertise. Jade is the contributing editor at the Canadian News Hall of Fame, a member of the Toronto Press and Media Club, and an advocate for political engagement - especially for Millennials. You can follow her on Twitter at @jadeetowle.

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