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Students aim to increase voters
With only three months left until British Columbians head to the polls, students are busy encouraging their peers to vote.
The University of Victoria Students’ Society has already had Elections B.C. on campus helping register voters, but with more than 500,000 eligible voters under of the age of 34 not participating in the last election, director of external relations with the UVSS Lucia Heffelfinger Orser said youth issues are being forgotten.
“I think when students go out and vote it brings youth issues to the forefront,” said Heffelfinger Orser. “Some of the reasons why health care and other issues always rank at the top for government is because it is an older demographic who votes and those are the issues that are important to them.”
As a student society, the primary issue it would like to see addressed by the political parties in the election race is post-secondary education.
The UVSS and other student societies from across the province are joining together, creating a coalition called the Alliance of B.C. Students, which previously ran an informal campaign known as Where’s the funding?
“It represents over 180,000 students in the province and we are running a campaign specifically targeting the four major political parties in the upcoming election,” said Heffelfinger Orser. “Essentially we’re trying to call on the Liberals, the NDP, the Conservatives and the Green Party to commit to making B.C. have the highest quality, most successful post-secondary education system.”
With a general election scheduled for May 14, Heffelfinger Orser is concerned students may still have difficulty making it to the polls.
“It’s a tricky time for students to vote,” she said. “It’s a time when they are moving in and out of the province, going on summer vacation, finishing exams, or looking for work. I thinking timing makes a difference.”
With fewer students on campus at the time of the general election, it is also more challenging for the student societies to reach them, Heffelfinger Orser added.
The Camosun College Student Society has launched a similar campaign at the Landsdowne and Interurban campuses under the banner Rock the Vote B.C.
Like their peers at the University of Victoria, the CCSS is hoping the youth vote will make a difference in some potentially tight races.
“Rock the vote B.C. has two components: voter registration, and promoting the issues that are important to students such as tuition, financial aid, transit, housing and the environment,” said CCSS external executive Madeline Keller MacLeod. “Voter registration is very important because the election falls at an extremely inconvenient time for students. They need to know their rights as a voter, such as the ability to vote in any polling station across the province on election day, unlikefederal elections.”
To entice students who may need to register, Friday, Feb. 15 the CCSS will be serving grilled cheese sandwiches to Interurban students who fill out voter registration forms.
“We want to make sure our members are registered and receiving their voter information in the mail, making it just that much easier to vote,” said Keller MacLeod.