Apathy is Boring is a youth-led, non-partisan charity that works to support and engage our peers in Canada’s democracy. We work year-round to provide educational resources as well as programming to make democracy and civic spaces more accessible through opportunities to build knowledge, skills and, ultimately, networks of engaged youth in communities from coast to coast to coast.
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Apathy is Boring's Samantha Reusch
The federal election is coming up and I wanted to get everyone pumped up and out to vote. Did you know that this election is the first in which all millennials (people aged 18-38) are eligible to vote? Did you know that millennials make up 37% of the eligible voters in the country? This means that if all of us went out and voted we could make a big impact on the outcome of the election!
That being said, I know there are lots of barriers and misconceptions about voting. As a result I reached out to Samantha Reusch from Apathy is Boring to get the inside scoop.
Whether or not you participate in elections, the outcome will impact you regardless. As an organization, we’re not concerned with the outcomes of elections but rather who is deciding them.
Youth are voting at lower rates than older generations. Turnout has been declining since about the 1970’s. We saw an increase in the last federal election but it remains to be seen if this will become a trend or if participation will continue to decline.
Ultimately, if we don’t vote, then our democracy doesn’t work. Participation is what gives our governments legitimacy.
Health and well-being has been consistently listed as a priority issue for young people and mental health is a key component of that. Politics generally, but especially during an election season, rely on our ability to identify key collective problems that we face and to identify, develop and debate potential solutions to those problems.
Proposed solutions and policy will vary greatly depending on the political party but also the lived experience, and ideologies of the people in decision-making positions. Having diverse voices in politics who can speak to the distinct lived realities, experiences and perspectives of those impacted by mental healthcare policy in this country ultimately mean that these solutions can be more responsive and more closely aligned with current needs.
When it comes to mental healthcare, we need to ensure that there are people in decision-making positions who deeply understand the problem and can speak to ways forward that will lead us where we need to be.
When it comes to youth, there are a lot of people who associate a decline in voter turnout among young people to a broader indifference or apathy. Simply put, the evidence does not suggest that this is the case at all. While only half of young people report being interested in politics, we see that young people care deeply about issues that impact their lives and have clear ideas and opinions on solutions to the problems they face.
The issue is not one of attitude but rather of behaviour. We see that as fewer young people vote, political parties and candidates are less likely to identify them as their “base” and speak to their issues and concerns. This is turn makes young people less likely to feel engaged by that system and this negative cycle continues, ultimately lowering participation.
Our work is about breaking that negative cycle and helping young people see themselves reflected in and engaged by the political process.
Typically, we divide barriers to voting into two categories: motivational barriers and logistical barriers.
Motivational barriers include feelings like “my vote doesn’t matter”, “all political parties are the same”, “I am not well informed enough to vote”, etc. As I mentioned before, the negative cycle of parties not speaking to youth, leading to youth not voting, leading to parties not speaking to youth can exacerbate these barriers and make youth feel like they are not a part of that system.
Civic education also plays a major role in whether or not young people feel equipped to participate. Lack of knowledge of current events as well as a lack of understanding of the system as a whole can also prevent youth from engaging.
Logistical or access barriers include barriers that prevent people from physically accessing or getting to the polls. This can include issues of accessibility, no access to childcare or a lack of transportation to the polling station.
Make a plan! Get informed about where and when you plan to vote. Check out alternatives to Election Day voting like advanced polls if that day doesn’t work for you. Bring a friend (or a few) and have lunch after. Making a plan makes you more likely to follow through and deciding in advance where to go and when can make voting feel less stressful.
In addition to the where and when of voting, it’s important to think about who you will vote for too. Talk to your friends about the election, read up on the different party platforms, decide who aligns with your values and who is talking about the issues that matter to you.
One of the most powerful ways you can encourage your family and friends to vote is simply to ask them. Just by having a face-to-face conversation about the election and asking them to turn out, you make your friends and family significantly more likely to do so
In addition to being critical of the source of any news we see online and validating the source of the information, one of the best tools we can use is to check-in with ourselves and our own reaction to the information we see, believe it or not.
Disinformation relies on our emotional reactions to spread. The angrier or happier we are, the more likely we are to engage with the content and that engagement helps it spread further. Taking a moment to consider who might benefit from our outrage (or our joy) before engaging with something is the best way to keep misinformation from spreading more and a good moment to consider how credible that information might be.
Ultimately, voting is an opportunity to engage with our democracy in Canada - but it is not the only way. There are so many ways that young people engage in our communities on a regular basis that are also important to highlight and celebrate. Connecting the issues we care about on a community level to the election is one way to feel more connected to the political outcomes of the election.
Stay informed about what’s going on in our country and in our government, volunteer or have discussions with your networks (either online or in-person) about the things you care about.
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Subscribe to the FEED - our biweekly politics round-up to stay informed about what’s happening in Canada.
You can also sign-up as a volunteer through our website - join our RISE program or as a street teams volunteer.