A lot of fuss is being made on social media this federal election about Canadians’ — and northerners’ in particular — lack of interest when it comes to voting. And for good reason.
Voter turnout in the NWT for the 2011 federal election was a dismal 47.4 percent. Only Nunavut’s was lower, at 30.4 percent (nationally the figure was 61.1 percent).
Parse those numbers down to the supposedly disinterested, disaffected youth category, aged 18-24, and it gets worse. Twenty-three percent of eligible male youth voters in the NWT cast a ballot last election, and 28 percent of females did.
As someone who has personally experienced epic fail on Elections Canada’s website, which refuses to acknowledge any of the addresses I plug in to try to register, thereby blocking the rest of the process, I can attest: teenagers aren’t entirely to blame.
“I totally see how hard it is for young people to vote now,” says Candice Lys, the firebrand leader of the NWT teen sexual health initiative known as FOXY (Fostering Open Expression Among Youth). She’s trying to assist FOXY’s teen peer leaders in registering and is planning a social media blitz to encourage youth voting, but it hasn’t been easy.
FOXY board member Kayley Mackay voting yesterday | Photo courtesy Kayley Mackay
“Nobody has any identification that proves where they currently live, and getting them to register is like pulling teeth; it’s complicated and so they say eff it and give up,” says Lys (pronounced Less).
She says some teens don’t even know what their address is, and they move around a lot. Plus, they need to register for three upcoming elections: the Federal General Election on Monday, Oct. 19th; the Yellowknife Municipal Election, also on Monday, Oct. 19th (as well as in five other municipalities); and the Northwest Territories General Election on Monday, Nov. 23.
Jessie Shaw, 19, is a first-time voter and a FOXY peer leader who successfully registered for all three elections, after getting detailed and ongoing instructions from Lys.
“The actual registration process isn’t that hard, but none of the websites are compatible with phones. I’d say at least 70 percent of youth are going to try to be doing it on their cell phones,” says Shaw. “You need to be on a computer to do it, otherwise you can only read half the information and fill out half the information.”
First-time voter Jessie Shaw | Courtesy Jessie Shaw
Shaw says the next step will be trying to figure out where, and when, to vote for each of the three elections, information which she says she’s lacking.
“I’m totally signed up but I also have no idea when the elections are. It’s just a one page signup thing, you hit submit and it doesn’t give you any information at all about where to vote or when or any of it.”
She’s been encouraging her friends to get involved with the elections, adding that none of them even knew they had to register, something which she hadn’t known about until Lys contacted her.
Lys has been encouraging teenage girls 18 and over who’ve participated in the FOXY program, as well as board members and facilitators, to wear their FOXY-branded hoodies and vote during advance polls, take a photo of it, and blast it on social media to encourage other youth to head to the ballot booth. The encouragement extends to young men as well, but the FOXY program is still in the development stage for boys, so there aren’t any hoodies roaming around out there yet.
“FOXY’s a program about positive role modelling, so for us to be able to promote voting, especially among the younger people who tend to not vote, I think is really important,” she says.
A quick voting guide
While advance polls for the federal election are being held Friday to Monday, few people are aware that they can vote at the returning station in Yellowknife’s Centre Ice Plaza everyday until 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13th. But you need to bring proof of identity and address.
To help you get out and vote, here are the websites for all three elections, along with links for registering and ways you can cast a ballot before the election day:
The City has also launched an app — Pingstreet — that includes election information
Ways to Advance Vote: Oct. 5-9, 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. at Office of the Returning Officer, City Hall
FEDERAL GENERAL ELECTION, OCT. 19th
Advance Voting in Yellowknife: Visit the returning office on the 2nd floor of Centre Ice Plaza, 480-A Range Lake Road, Suite 7 before the deadline of Tuesday, October 13 at 6:00 p.m. Offices are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m. Bring your proof of identity and address.
Advance Polls are: Friday, October 9, Saturday, October 10, Sunday, October 11, Monday, October 12, 2015. To find a polling station near you, you have to plug your address into the Elections Canada website, or call 1 866 564-6481
NWT TERRITORIAL GENERAL ELECTION, NOV. 23
Ways to Advance Vote: November 11th to 21st Office locations and hours of operation for each Returning Officer will be published on October 26th