Engaging young voters would boost turnout

With voter turnout being only 31% in the last election, engaging Trail's younger voters could be the key to the upcoming election.

It’s the Greater Trail young adults who will soon be buying the houses, paying property taxes and maybe one day, taking a run for council.

Tax bumps, recycling, and the future of the regional landfill top Billy Bain’s list of matters the new Silver City council needs to address.

The 22-year old Trail native is ready to exercise his right to vote in the upcoming civic election for a second time – though this is the first time he can vote in a new mayor.

“It’s important for our age group to vote because houses are being bought and we are becoming a bigger part in the community and taxes will go up,” said Bain. “If you don’t vote then you shouldn’t complain.”

Another local ready to cast his vote for local government is Zach Perehudoff, a 21-year old with sagacity that echoes Bain’s.

“I think it is important for my age group to vote because young people have just as much right as the older population to have a say in the direction of the community,” said Perehudoff.

Moving the city forward is a main issue, he noted, adding, the pedestrian bridge and proposed riverfront centre are examples of valuable assets that will improve the city for the future.

Locally, there isn’t a means to record voter demographics, but according to Elections Canada, 38.8 per cent in the 18-24 age group cast a ballot during the 2011 federal election.

Three years ago, voter turnout, of all age groups, was only 31 per cent in Trail’s civic election.

So engaging that age range is key for political candidates, including the city’s four mayors-in-running.

The question is, how can more young adults be drawn to the polling stations on Nov. 15?

Young adults will take more notice when issues that concern them are made a priority, says Doug Jones, one of four Trail mayoral candidates.

“Young voters have mentioned to me that they don’t trust politicians…they say one thing to get elected and then change once they get elected.”

The skateboard park is a great example, he explained.

“Most of the original proponents have moved on in their adult life to other ventures, leaving a feeling of disengagement to civic politics.”

Ian McLeod, also in the running for Trail mayor, says younger voters need to know that their input counts and will be part of shaping the city’s future, if they become engaged.

“To get involved to start, I suggest they step up and help with civic events,” said McLeod. “It’s a great way to start seeing how things are being done.”

Roger Catalano, in his second run for Silver City mayor, stepped back further, saying young people should be taught the politics of Canada by Grade 5, and he encourages youth participation in community organizations such as the Kinsmen foundation, or Rotary and Lions clubs.

With new technology, reaching out to voters aged 18-24 has evolved beyond dinner table banter or hammering a sign in the ground.

These days social media seems to be the most direct way to reach the young masses, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even Youtube.

Trail mayoral candidate Mike Martin said with only 30 days left until the general election, it may be difficult to influence the interest of the young electorate at this point.

He maintains social media is an effective medium to attract and encourage young adults to vote.

Additionally, Martin suggests engaging students ages 16-18 in mock civic council activities or shadowing municipal representatives.

“Ask them what they think and what they see as being important,” he added. “A newspaper article may help, however this age group is more likely to stay in touch through social media.”

Typically, J.L. Crowe Secondary School organizes activities and school presenters to coincide with civic, provincial and federal elections.

The late start to the year has delayed election-related events, said Social Studies teacher Doug Bruce, noting that the school is registered with Student Vote and activities will be planned before Nov. 15.

Student Vote is a parallel election that coincides with official election periods and provides those under voting age, the opportunity to cast a “mock” ballot.