How to increase young voter turnout in B.C.

MLA proposes extending vote to 16-year-olds in order to drive civic engagement starting in high school.

MLA Report, By Norm Macdonald

As we prepare to head into another election, there will be plenty of discussion about the falling rates of voter turnout. And eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 25 are least likely to vote.

This is a very sad fact considering the vast majority of elected officials at all levels of government are over 40. And these demographic factors create a situation where the issues that are of most importance to younger members of our society can be completely overlooked.

As the MLA for Columbia River – Revelstoke, every year I visit high school classrooms to talk about the Parliamentary system and the issues that matter to students. And even when the class I am attending is on a Monday morning or the last class on Friday, I find students to be highly engaged.  They are articulate and well-informed, and they are excited about the prospect of voting.

But sadly, based on the statistics, many of these students will become one of the many in this age bracket that doesn’t vote.

The Chief Electoral Officer of British Columbia has recommended that the age of voter registration should be lowered to 16 to enable Elections BC to register new voters while they are still in school. And the evidence shows that young people who are registered to vote are more likely to make their voices heard at election time.

In response to the Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendation, the New Democrats have tabled legislation that will lower the age of voter registration to 16. Unfortunately, the BC Liberals chose not to proceed with the legislation during the last Legislative session before the election.

But the New Democrats have promised, should we be chosen to form government, that we will pass this important piece of legislation.

Make sure that you are registered with Elections BC. If you did not recently receive a voting card in the mail from Elections BC, you need to check your registration. You can register online at www.elections.bc.ca.

Norm Macdonald (NDP) is the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke.

 

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