April 2017: BCFS “Students are voting.”
April 2018: Elections BC “Yep, students voted.”
The numbers are out, and they paint a picture that is not at all surprising: young people voted in the provincial election.
According to Elections BC’s recently-released report, 56.2% of voters aged 18 to 24 voted in the May 2017 BC election. Not only is that a notable 8.3% increase over the 2013 election, but it’s also a higher turnout than those voters aged 25 to 44. In fact, virtually the same percentage of voters aged 18 to 24 voted as those aged 45 to 54.
These numbers come on the heels of the 2015 federal election, which saw a record-breaking surge in youth voter turnout, particularly in British Columbia.
“The numbers in the Elections BC report demonstrate what students have been saying all along – young people aren’t apathetic, we’re here, and we are making our voices heard,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “These numbers are in stark contrast to the fallacy that young people don’t vote and thus our issues are less important.”
The BCFS ran a campaign titled Students Are Voting throughout the provincial election, emphasizing the importance of engaging in the electoral process. Throughout the campaign, students pledged to vote, learned about local politicians and voting locations, and students’ unions garnered media about youth voting.
Several ridings in the 2017 election were won by very small margins—fewer than 200 votes each, with one being decided by only 87 votes. There is no doubt that increased engagement by young voters helped to change the outcome in these and other ridings. Young voters understanding their agency and power truly can change the outcome of an election.
“Students are engaged in their communities and on their campuses in issues that matter to them,” said Aran Armutlu, BCFS Campaigns Coordinator. “After two successive general elections with a high turnout from young people, we are hopeful that politicians will open their eyes and see that we are an important demographic and their policies need to reflect that.”
It’s time to stop repeating the false notion that young people don’t care. It’s time to stop saying that young people don’t vote. Not only is this untrue, but the perpetuation of this stereotype can undermine the political agency of young voters. In the 2017 BC election, young people demonstrated that they do care and that they do vote. This should be celebrated and encouraged.
And to the politicians and political parties: we hope you’re paying attention.