Daniela De Ciantis researches candidates before Toronto’s municipal elections to be held Oct. 27. Photo by Augustine Ng

Youth vote counts, say young Catholics

By  Augustine Ng, Youth Speak News
  • October 10, 2014

Conchita D’Souza, a second-year Christianity and Culture student at the University of Toronto, equates voting with flipping a stone into a pond. Each vote can create “ripples that will go towards influencing society,” she said.

Unfortunately, as voters go to the polls Oct. 27 to elect mayors, councillors and school trustees in municipal elections across Ontario, young voters will not be creating many ripples. They represent the largest group of non-voters in a society that is increasingly failing to show up on polling day.

D’Souza believes the youth are only hurting themselves by their voting silence.

“There are so many things we want to change in society,” D’Souza said. “But people only talk, they don’t go out to do something.”

In the 2011 federal election, only 37.4 per cent of eligible voters in the 18- to 24-year-old demographic voted, according to Elections Canada.

A campaign called Apathy is Boring that looked at data from Toronto’s 2010 municipal elections shows voter decline is being driven by young people. The survey looked at eligible voters age 18-35 in Toronto and found that 18-21 year-olds are less likely to be interested in politics than older voters.

“If you don’t participate it’s like saying you don’t care,” said Agatha Zuchelkowski, a second-year life sciences student at the University of Toronto. Many of her Catholic peers share that sentiment.

“It is important to get your own voice and advocacy and to choose the best person who promotes your beliefs,” said Kaylee Moynihan, a first-year social-work student at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

Vanessa Lentini, a third-year concurrent teacher education program student at U of T, says, “You want to exercise your right to vote. If you’re given the right you have to take advantage of it.”

Out of the 13 young Catholics interviewed, all said they would vote and encourage other youth to vote. The also stressed the importance of becoming informed before you vote.

“Don’t just go in there and check off a box,” Lentini said. “Vote with awareness.”

Daniela De Ciantis, 21, encourages young people to research their local candidates.

“You don’t want to go in blindly. You want to know what each candidate is advocating,” she said.

There are many ways youth can find out more about the candidates running in the election, “whether it be speaking to your family, friends, priests or doing research online.”

The Internet provides a lot of information almost instantly, as well as ways to contact a candidate to ask questions, learn more or become involved in a campaign.

A common explanation for not voting is that youth don’t think one vote can make a difference. But Zuchelkowski disputes that premise.

“One voter does make a difference,” she said.

If youth under 30 had voted in the same numbers as the population overall in the 2011 federal election, they could have changed the outcome of the election. More than 60 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2011. If 60 per cent of youth voted, instead of the 37.4 per cent that did, the results could have been very different, according to research done by pollster Nik Nanos of Nanos Research.

Politicians usually target their platforms at those who vote.

“You need to make the government aware that youth are voting,” said Michael Chen, a fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson.

There are about 1.9 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Toronto, which encompasses the city of Toronto and surrounding suburban municipalities. Vanessa Chan, Masters of Psychology student at U of T, wants the Catholic voter’s voice to be heard.

“A large part of the constituents are Catholic; if that part is silent, then the government is not going to get the message that this group of people holds this set of values that are important,” she said.

“It is because people don’t speak up that a lot of things that Catholics stand for gets swept under the bed.”

(Ng, 17, is a first-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.) 

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