This was originally posted at Alberta Votes Matter, a great campaign looking to refocus conversations about what should matter to Albertans under 40 during the provincial election. Check out the other essay by Alberta leaders under 40 at www.albertavotesmatter.com and follow the campaign at @albertavotes
Students have been waiting a long time for this election; elections like this do not come around in Alberta very often. We knew it was going to be different not just because polling told us the result is not a foregone conclusion, or because Alberta politics finally have become interesting after a long period of repetitive banality. We knew it was going to be different because so many of us are going to vote, and this time our vote is going to matter.
There are over 200,000 post-secondary students in Alberta, most of whom come from Alberta, are over the age of 18, and will be eligible to vote on April 23. Those are enough votes to make the difference in deciding who gets to lead this province and who does not. Of course, only as long as they come out and vote.
I thought about that quandary for the past year, how were we going to get students out to vote? The answer seemed simple, we were going to ask them. The ideas behind voter identification and then getting those voters out to vote is a staple of any modern political campaign. More than anything else, getting as many of your supporters out to vote than the other team has become a staple of modern campaigns. What if we took that same approach, but instead of identifying supporters we just identified students, and reminded them of the importance of getting out and voting. And with voting day happening right during the stress of final exams, it has become even more important to send a reminder about casting a ballot.
This was the inspiration behind our Get Out The Vote campaign; a campaign much different than any we have run before. With over 10,000 students from the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, and the University of Lethbridge having already pledged to vote, we know it is working. More students than ever before in Alberta’s history are going to cast a ballot on April 23. In a time of voter apathy and a malaise around democratic participation we hope to reverse the trend and do our part to boost Alberta’s abysmal voter turnout. By encouraging students to vote for the first time, we hope to instill the values of engaged citizenship in our next generation.
Casting a ballot as a student in Alberta is not as easy as you would think. Sadly our election laws are perhaps the most paternalistic and difficult to navigate rules in the country. Students, for example, are singled out in the Elections Act to be forced to vote outside of the community they are studying in and have to cast a ballot where their “family home” is. We have tried in vain to update these laws but to date we have been unsuccessful. After all, the laws are made by politicians, and very few feel that students are the demographic who got them elected. That is going to change after this election.
I have been talking to students about this upcoming election for months, making sure they knew not just their rights, but the power they hold in their hand. Many ridings on April 23 are going to be decided by only a few votes. And it has been inspiring to see so many realize that this time, their voice is going to matter. We have done countless classroom visits, recruited a team of fantastic student volunteers, and talked to thousands of students. Without exception, everyone we have talked to knows how important this election is and how important it is to stand up and be counted.
If young Albertans come out and vote in this election, it is going to have an impact that extends well past the evening of April 23. By exercising our vote this election we are going to help decide the future of Alberta. We are going to have the power to tell our politicians to keep their promises, otherwise we will show them the door the next time we get out and vote.