Authors: Kelsey Williams and Grace Kennedy
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board:
This letter is in response to “The Death of the Youth Vote” in the print edition of The Globe and Mail on Saturday, April 25th.
As leaders of a youth organization, working to encourage the youth vote, we found much to criticize in your “death of the youth vote” argument.We will however, give thanks for recognizing that young Canadians are a “smart” population.
What is unfortunate about your argument, is the lack of sincere appreciation for how immensely problematic the deterioration of civic engagement is, not only to youth, but to Canada as a whole. We found that the descriptors of youth used throughout the article – “disengaged”, “conveniently ignorable”, and of course, the never-ending rhetoric of “apathetic youth” – made it apparent that there were no concern for the youth vote to begin with.
After reading your depictions, we are sure that any young Canadian belonging to the 18-34 age bracket would certainly feel empowered to vote in the upcoming election. The propagation of a defeatist attitude surrounding the election offends and removes hope from the numerous organizations that have historically, and are presently, attempting to engage young people in politics. “Is there a way to get young Canadians back in the game?” you ask. “ Not in this election, unfortunately,” you say. There was no opportunity to answer, so we assume you mean that we should all stop trying.
In reading your article, we began to question its intentions, and wondered who you were intending to persuade. We cannot help to think that if there were a sincere concern for the loss of a “generation of voters”, you would highlight that despite popular belief, young people have a wide range of opinions, and if given the opportunity, will propel conversations around our most important civic and social issues.
Young people – and all people – are interested in inherently political topics, but are often unaware that these topics are first, in fact, political, and are secondly, generally impacted by voting. The writer of this article failed the perfect opportunity to close this gap in knowledge.
Through the use of various tools, and with the participation of a diverse group of young people, the authors of the scholarly article “The Myth of Youth Apathy” demonstrate that there is a strong desire of youth to participate in democratic life. A Google search entitled “youth voting and apathy” results in several findings of this particular article on the first page, so why not include it in your article? Or why not criticize the inaccessibility of political jargon that permeates voting information, the voting processes, and especially, the political media?
You state youth are apathetic, but in the same breathe you expose the failure of political parties to engage young people. As young people, we are left feeling that it is our own disengagement and ignorance that has “conveniently” created space for politicians to neglect our age group. If the wellbeing of our country lies in representative democracy, it should be every party’s duty to engage every citizen, especially those underrepresented. This is where the editorial’s argument should have shifted to criticizing those in power who fail to engage youth, instead of merely identifying the cyclical idea that “youth don’t vote, so politicians don’t care about them”.
As such, whether it was intentional or not, the writer has only served to perpetuate the “your-vote-doesn’t-count-so-why-vote” rhetoric, and then subsequently provides little hope that this can be challenged. Micheal Sani of the UK group Bite the Ballot, proposes a better question than that of your defeatist conclusion, stating, “How can you call people apathetic when they are not being told about how to vote and why it matters?”
Do you want to know one way to encourage youth to vote? We think it starts with asking them what matters to them.