KSA to launch ‘Get Out the Vote’ campaign

Upcoming project will encourage students to get out and vote in federal election

Rosaura Ojeda / The Runner

Student voters could potentially have a huge impact on the upcoming federal election, if we can overcome our historically low turnout rates on election day. That’s why the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) is hoping to drive up voter turnout among KPU students for a potentially historic upcoming 2015 federal election.

With this Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign, they aim to increase student engagement in federal politics. The campaign is set to begin with the fall semester and run to the election date, which is tentatively scheduled for October 19.

KSA vice president external Alex McGowan is spearheading the GOTV campaign, and he came into office with plans to make a voting campaign such as this one a reality. While campaigns similar to this one have been done at other universities around the country, this will be the first of its kind for Kwantlen.

“What I’ve seen is this huge opportunity for students and young people to make a big difference,” says McGowan. “And given that the last election was four years ago, that’s four years of young people who have never voted in a federal election before.”

The KSA has opted to budget $25,000 to the campaign which will include on-campus events such as debates, candidate meet-and-greets, viewing parties for the debates and results night and more. This budget will also cover printing, volunteer training and other assorted expenses. Volunteers will also be on campus talking to students in hopes of convincing them to pledge to vote. The KSA’s goal is to encourage voter participation rather than advocating for one party or another.

The KSA is confident that this spending falls within the KSA’s mission of “ensuring adequate provision for students’ welfare, activities, political, and social needs.”

“The students have charged us to run campaigns on their behalf and to collectively pool their money into helping them make a difference,” says McGowan.

The KSA chose perhaps the most interesting Canadian election in recent memory to roll out this new program as the 2015 decision has the potential to be historic. After nearly a decade of Conservative dominance, polls are currently showing a strong possibility of the opposition NDP forming a government for the first time in Canadian history. In fact, this would be this first time in history that neither the Liberal or Conservative party (or a coalition of the two) have formed the ruling government. Add to that the fact that the future of controversial security/spying legislation C-51 (supported by the Libs and Cons) hangs in the balance and it becomes clear that the KSA will have no shortage of drama with which to sell this election to KPU students.

“This federal election coming up is definitely going to be a historic election,” says McGowan. “With generational shifts, with the political options that are available and with the trends we’re seeing there’s almost certainly going to be a change in government and I think it’s going to be a really big change.”

That’s not to say that the KSA, or any group that seeks to drive up young voter turnout, doesn’t have its work cut out for it. Canada has an abysmal record when it comes to youth voter turnout, with only 39 percent of eligible young voters turning out for the 2011 election. In elections past, this has given the party that can best appeal to senior voter a serious edge. This has lead to the perception of under representation among young voters which can lead to a nasty spiral of voter apathy. However, KPU represents a population of almost 20,000 primarily young people, perhaps not a huge number on the federal level but certainly enough to have a significant effect on local ridings.

McGowan says there’s the possibility for change in every single local riding. “Because Kwantlen students are mostly concentrated in the Surrey, Langley, Richmond areas, there’s definitely a big opportunity for Kwantlen students to have a decent impact on the results in their ridings.”

GOTV events are set to begin with the fall semester. Check the KSA webpage or upcoming Runner calendars for more information as it comes out.


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