A University of Manitoba students group armed with golf carts and megaphones is mobilizing students to vote at a 'pop-up' voting office on campus. Thursday is the last day for Elections Canada's 70 satellite voting stations, four of which are in Manitoba.
"As crazy as it may look, it definitely brings more exposure to voting," said Jessica Morrison, with a megaphone in hand. The University of Manitoba Students' Union (UMSU) partnered with the national rock the vote group Be The Vote to get young Canadians engaged in the federal election.
"For us to do something like this, it makes it a lot more fun for them. It makes them ask questions, 'What are you doing driving around in a golf cart?!' and allows us to have a real conversation student-to-student about what's going on and engage them to get involved and go ahead and vote," she said.
From October 5 to 8, Elections Canada has four pop-up voting locations in Manitoba; including University of Manitoba Pembina Hall Student Lounge, Brandon Friendship Centre, Dauphin Friendship Centre and Portage Friendship Centre.
In the first two days, UMSU said more than 250 students cast ballots at the U of M's pop-up voting site.
Instead of marking an 'X' like normal, voters will be provided with a list of candidates in their riding and will then write in the name of their candidate of choice. Any Canadian citizen can vote at the pop-up locations, no matter which riding in Canada they are voting in.
Student Antonio Bucci said he definitely would not have voted if he wasn't approached by his fellow students.
"Unfortunately my priorities are all messed up, I just didn't think I had time," he said.
Admittedly, the 18-year-old first-time voter said he was influenced to vote by the "pretty girl" in the golf cart (Morrison) and the ease of the free ride, but he said during their conversation he came to understand the importance of voting.
"Her mostly, but I don't know maybe I can vote and have an impact," he said during the golf cart ride to the poll. "Maybe if it was something like this, where it's right in front of me, I'd be voting more often."
Only 38.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in 2011, according to Elections Canada. Allie Knox, 21, said she would have voted with or without the golf cart ride because she's excited to vote in her first federal election.
"If we're not voting then we're just getting older people's say in everything basically and they're making all the decisions for us, rather than us stepping up and doing it ourselves," she said. "I don't really think many young people are going to vote, I don't know any of my friends who have."
New research from Statistics Canada backs that up. It shows young Canadians are less likely to vote, but more likely to be engaged in non-electoral political activities.
For example, in 2013, 35 per cent of people aged 20 to 24 signed a petition in the previous 12 months, compared to 22 per cent of those 65 to 74.
While younger Canadians are more likely to be involved, the same study found them less likely to want to vote; 47 per cent of voters under the age of 20 said they were "very likely" to vote in the next federal election, compared to 84 per cent among voters aged 65 to 74.
Knox isn't surprised by the new research. She said petitions and marches make young people feel like they're having a bigger impact. "Maybe just because we believe that politics aren't really beneficial, like they're not actually making any difference when it comes to actual big decisions."
National youth group needs Winnipeg volunteers
The national youth movement Apathy Is Boring has partnered with a contingent of volunteers in Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, but not Manitoba.
Caro Loutfi, executive director with Apathy is Boring, said the most effective way to get young people voting is face-to-face conversations, the like barrage of golf carts on U of M's campus.
The group said after five federal elections it has a good sense of what works. It wants buy-in from volunteers in Winnipeg, to help increase youth voter turnout in Manitoba.
"Now is the time that everyone is paying attention. There's always time. That's what we pride ourselves, training and mentorship for youth and young people," Loutfi said.
The VP External of UMSU, Astitwa Thapa, said the university group already partnered with the national campaign Be The Vote, but will contact Apathy Is Boring "immediately" to see if they can learn from them as well.
"We've already partnered with one, but as many as possible, we'd like to get as many students as possible to the polls," he said.
Thapa is from Nepal and since he is not a Canadian citizen he is unable to vote in the federal election. Yet the newcomer to Canada is among those leading the youth rock the vote charge on U of M's campus.
"I've never been able to vote in Nepal, we have a lot of political turmoil and stuff like that, and I understand the value of voting."