These King's students want to make London's election 'cool again'
London Votes is an Instagram and Twitter profile to boost young voter engagement
Four students at King's University College in London, Ont., are using social media to encourage other young people to learn about and vote in the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 24.
Molly Brennan-Purtill, Victoria Carpenter, Barbara Christensen, and Matthew Plaskett started the LdnVotes Instagram page to increase voter engagement among the 18-24 age group.
"With students, it tends to be low and we know that people our age are more engaged online," said Christensen.
"Social media activism has also become a big thing in recent years, so the best way we can delegate this information to them would be by making accounts on platforms which they already use actively."
The political science and social justice students said they were prompted to create the page following Ontario's provincial election in June, which saw the lowest voter turnout in its history — only 43.5 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
The page condenses candidate platforms and compiles frequently asked questions about municipal elections into posts and stories. It's also getting a great response from local candidates who are trying to connect with younger voters, Christensen said.
Why students don't vote
Many students who aren't politically involved tend not to vote because they don't understand what they're voting for and the difference their ballots can make, Brennan-Purtill said.
"For most of us, when we take civics and careers in high school, it's just a course that you have to take, it's not really something you understand the importance of, that who you vote for will decide how things in your city work," she said.
People vote based on who their friends and family vote for, whether they share similar beliefs or not, Carpenter said. She admitted this used to be the case for her.
"When I became of voting age, I just went with what my family believed and that's what I thought I should do, but when I started looking into politics more, I realized that my views are different."
"I also think that people will just see someone in the news or a sign and they just remember a name, so that's who they'll vote for without knowing anything about their campaign or what they stand for," Carpenter added.
We need to think more optimistically about what can be done better for our city- Molly Brennan-Purtill, co-founder of Ldn Votes
Some people are also unaware that civic elections work differently than federal and provincial ones, where candidates aren't associated with political parties, Brennan-Purtill said.
And students should know they have the ability to make a difference, Plaskett added.
"A lot of important community change comes from the municipal level," he said. "That's why we need people to move past the idea of the party lines, because at the end of the day all community building really comes back to your local neighbourhoods."
'Talk to those impacted most by city issues'
The group found that the top election issue among students was improving public transit, which directly impacts students that live outside the downtown core and rely on buses to get to campus. Those buses often have delays and inconsistent service.
Their advice for the next mayor and city council? Listen to Londoners. Especially those at the forefront of core issues such as homelessness and transit.
"If you're looking to improve transit, talk to people who actually use it...don't just ask people who have nothing to do with it. Ask the homeless population what their needs are so we can create the best possible outcomes," Carpenter said.
"When we talk about politics, we have a very pessimistic view that 'Politicians do nothing for the city,'" Brennan-Purtill said. "We need to think more optimistically about what can be done better for our city."
The group has high hopes for this election and the positive changes that can come out of it, and they hope their efforts can get more voters to the polls.