In the past, there have been many instances where students complain that the voting age is too high, and wish that high school students were qualified to vote. Some argue that high school students are mature enough to take responsibility and make their own decisions, but students at MGCI are probably still too inept to vote in real elections.
On Friday, 24 October, a mock election took place at MGCI to allow students to express their opinions on which mayor, city councillor, and school trustee should be elected into office. Surprisingly, a mere 237 votes were casted towards the top three candidates for mayor, a number dwarfed by the total population of MGCI. This brings up the concern that we think of voting as trivial, even though many MGCI students are nearing the age of 18, the age at which we will be eligible to vote in real elections. The goal of the Student Vote is to give students a chance to experience voting and help youth develop an interest toward politics. Evidently, MGCI students have not been able to take advantage of this opportunity to its greatest extent and appear apathetic towards voting.
What makes the situation worse is the lack of voter awareness, demonstrated by the results of The Reckoner’s survey investigating the changes MGCI students wish to see in Toronto. Of the 362 surveys taken, only 83 students claimed their political affiliation on the political spectrum, and a mere 17 students rated themselves a 10 out of 10 for political awareness. On top of that, the average rating students gave themselves for political awareness was just under 6 out of 10, suggesting that there is a lack of informative voting in our student population. Survey results showed that students expressed the most interest in generally accepted changes that would directly benefit themselves, such as improvements to public transit, a top priority on each of the top three mayoral candidates’ platforms.
However, students also expressed interests towards changes such as bike lanes (the 6th most popular option in the survey, out of 21 options), which Doug Ford, the mayoral candidate elected by a majority of the students, did not have plans for. This suggests that MGCI students did not vote for candidates based on their policies, but rather on their apparent leadership. This makes uninformed students especially vulnerable to slander advertisements, which should not be taken very seriously as they are biased and are created to downplay a specific candidate. We should be taking more thought in casting their vote in order to obtain the best results for themselves and their city.
A potential way for MGCI students to become more engaged in politics is to ensure students have a higher level of political awareness. This could be accomplished through brief morning announcements summarizing new political events during election periods. As for the mock elections, students could even be taken down during classes to have time where they would have the choice to vote, which would ensure a high participation in the Student Vote, and which would emphasize the importance of exercising voting rights.
The bottom line is that MGCI students need to adjust their attitude towards voting for when they have the opportunity to enter the real voting booths, when it actually counts. So when the next election rolls around and you are eligible to vote, remember that it is up to you to make your voice heard.
This piece was written with assistance from Mackenzie Wong.
Having brief morning announcements won’t increase the political awareness of students since no one can actually hear them very well as everyone is talking during announcements.
Taking classes down to vote, or in other words forcing students to vote, won’t help either. This will just make uninterested students who don’t know what’s going on to vote for candidates who their friends are voting for or whichever candidate is the most popular on social media or TV. Those who did vote at least showed some effort and probably most students who understood what was going on during the election and were politically informed did vote.
Honestly, it takes very little effort to go down to the cafeteria during lunch to vote. It isn’t too hard to read some good news articles about politics either. Soldiers have died and activists have struggled to give us our many freedoms, including the right to vote. We seem to take voting for granted. For example, only 60% of eligible Canadians turned our to vote during the 2014 Toronto municipal election. And this was a record. Only half voted in 2010 and the turnout was less than 40% in each of the 2000, 2003, and 2006 elections (in 2000 it was only 36%). http://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/85/101000040385.html