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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 1, September 2004

Get your vote on!

Young people who vote are rare, but a group of British Columbia youth have launched a campaign, entitled "Get Your Vote On," to change that. Get Your Vote On is a non-partisan campaign that aims to inform young citizens how to register to vote and how to get to the polls informed and engaged on important issues. Get Your Vote On will engage youth through fun community events like concerts and all-candidates debates leading up to the B.C. provincial election on May 17, 2005.

In Canada, since 1972, each successive generation of voters has had a lower voter-turnout rate. Large numbers of young people either are not registered to vote at all or are registered but do not vote. B.C. has 500,000 eligible-but-unregistered youth voters (aged 18–34); only one in five eligible voters aged 18–24 is on the voters list. The percentage of eligible voters (registered or not) who cast ballots dropped from 70% in 1983 to 55% in 2001.

Young people are staying away from the polls in large numbers. Get Your Vote On wants to turn that trend around. Voting is one arena where all people have equal voices. Lots of young people say the issues they care about are not being addressed. The goals of Get Your Vote On include encouraging youth to come together to discuss important issues, to understand where candidates and parties stand on youth issues, to self-organize and mobilize various youth communities, and to make sure that youth priorities are on the electoral agenda. Initial survey results indicate that big issues for youth are healthcare, environment, education, and social services.

"The world is run by those who show up, and young people in this province and across Canada are simply not showing up at the polling booth," said Sarah Rozell, from Get Your Vote On. Young people are starting to realize that the low voter turnout among youth is a significant problem, one that many youth feel they need to tackle themselves. There are many avenues to express values, and Get Your Vote On believes that a crucially important one is to vote.

Get Your Vote On is looking for volunteers. It is also seeking endorsements from B.C. unions, organizations, musicians, performers, filmmakers, and artists who believe in the importance of the campaign.

For more information, visit www.getyourvoteon.ca, e-mail info@getyourvoteon.ca, or call: 604-685-6631.

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