Apathy is Boring launches #5MMV awareness campaign

Members of Apathy is Boring work to promote voting among youth. Photo courtesy of Cavan Riordan

In the 2011 Canadian federal election, less than 40 per cent of those under the age of 24 voted, continuing a downward trend of youth engagement in federal politics.

Apathy is Boring, a non-partisan, national organization is so sick of this.

“Our aim is to educate Canadian youth about democracy through art and technology,” said Cavan Riordan, the organization’s Research and Elections program coordinator.

The Montreal-based group, founded in 2004, is almost entirely run by youth, and is partnering with Elections Canada and several non-profits to boost youth voter turnout.

The group has started the #5MMV Campaign on social media, that raises awareness of the large number of youth voters —5.5 million—representing a significant electoral force.

But this group is often discouraged from voting.

Youth tend to face larger obstacles to voting, such as frequently moving and elections that fall within academic sessions, when most students are busy studying.

Because voting is a habit—the more you vote the more likely you are to vote in the future—it’s especially important to start voting early, according to Riordan.

“Because youth are not expected to vote election campaigns of all major parties ignore youth,” he said. “Youth in turn are not inspired to vote so voter turnout stays low. Same thing next election cycle.”

Riordan says the habit can begin in any level of government in Canada, be it federal, provincial, municipal, or even in student union elections. Voter turnout in Student Federation of the University of Ottawa elections has traditionally hovered around 11 per cent.

Apathy is Boring is running a large ground campaign, getting volunteers to go to festivals and other events and talk about voting face-to-face with other youth.

According to Riordan, in-person interactions are far more effective at promoting electoral engagement, than holding formal conferences, which tend only to attract those who are already engaged.

Their work is especially important this election considering the recent changes in the Fair Elections Act that makes it more difficult for students to vote, as well as prohibits Elections Canada from advertising the elections, except for telling people where and when to vote.

Apathy is Boring has partnered with Elections Canada to disseminate their elections material, specifically their Ready to Vote guides.

Riordan believes there are positive signs for this year’s election. “I have high hopes that (youth voter turnout) will pass the 40-50% mark,” says Riordan, who also falls inside the 18-24 bracket.

“All opinion polls show a close race,” he said. “Historically close races have increased youth voter turnout rate for all demographics. This is the closest race ever.”

As of Sept. 22, the CBC poll tracker says that there is only a 0.9 per cent difference between the first-place Conservatives and the third-place Liberals.

He is also encouraged by the 72-day campaign—the longest in Canadian history—which gives voters more time to get informed and get organized. Candidates and parties have never had so much available information online.

For more information on Apathy is Boring and how to get involved with the group, visit: http://www.apathyisboring.com/