Nova Scotia

Fair Elections Act's new ID requirements will be tough on students, says activist

A recent Dalhousie University graduate wants students to know about how the changes in the Fair Elections Act will make it harder for them to vote.

Self-appointed activist encourages university students to get to the polls, with the right ID

Allan Lavell is the brains behind (Julia Tufts)

It's a familiar theme during a federal election campaign — why is there such low turnout among young Canadian voters?

According to Elections Canada, fewer than 40 per cent of eligible young Canadians voted in the last federal election.

The introduction this year of the Fair Elections Act has people worried turnout could be even worse.

Concerns about the Fair Elections Act

Allan Lavell wants to encourage young voters to mark their X on Oct. 19. He's a 25-year-old recent graduate from Dalhousie University in computer science and math. He's created a campaign called Right to Vote.

He's taken it upon himself to go into classrooms and talk to students about their right to vote, and specifically about the Fair Elections Act.

From his point of view, the new act was "quietly introduced" and he doesn't believe many people know about it. 

He says that might have an impact if people don't bring to the polls the ID that's now required to vote.

If a professor agrees to give Lavell three minutes to talk before a class begins, he shares his view of the Fair Elections Act with the students.

Lavell says the laws are going to especially affect students because they move regularly and the new ID requirements of the Fair Elections Act will make it more difficult for them to vote because they need to provide proof of their current address.

One-man show

Lavell is entirely self-motivated. He's not working for anyone but himself. A few weeks ago he heard about the Fair Elections Act and he decided to put aside his regular work as an app developer and dedicate himself to activism.

Lavell created Right2Vote with the help of a few friends, but he's now become the face and voice of the campaign.

"The reason I started Right2Vote is because I don't think there is actually that much awareness of the Fair Elections Act. I would be willing to bet that less than half the country knows about it," he said.

Lavell says this campaign represents a whole new level of activism for him. He believes he's motivated to act because his parents are also politically engaged and that's influenced him.​

Lavell says the responsibility of getting people to vote falls on the shoulders of both government and citizens.

It seems odd that you can elect a majority government when barely even half your country is voting at all.- Allan Lavell- Allan Lavell

Lavell hopes his efforts will pay off and he thinks social media will play a role in connecting and engaging university students.

CBC spoke with a handful of Dalhousie University students on campus last week. Seven out of seven students CBC News spoke with said they either planned to vote, or already had voted at one of the campus's advance polling stations.

Student reaction

Cynthia Burke is a third-year student from Cape Breton. She voted in an advance poll for a candidate in her home riding.

"I voted to make a difference, and to have my opinions matter," she said.

Another student, 18-year old Mateo Ferguson, says Justin Trudeau's relatively young age might be a factor in engaging younger voters.

"Justin Trudeau starting making his rounds when I was in Grade 9. He's still making his rounds and now that's four years past," said Ferguson.

"The youth, we have a say now. We're going to put a lot of it forward."

Mark Coffin, 28, has spent a lot of time thinking about voter turnout among younger voters. He founded Halifax's Springtide Collective. It's a group that aims to get more people engaged with politics, especially young people.

He says his generation is disengaging from politics and he'd like to see political system reform so that young people might reconnect with politics.

He says if young people don't engage, it won't allow progress to be made on public issues.

Pizza and Politics

The Springtide Collective has been holding meetings called Pizza and Politics for youth. The first one focused on how the how to vote and what's at stake in the upcoming election, while the second one examined ssues important to young people in Nova Scotia.

Coffin thinks more people will vote in this election because of the differences between the parties and the closeness of the race.

Coffin also has concerns the Fair Elections Act's new ID requirements will make it harder for students to vote.

"Is that going to be enough to dampen that otherwise probably heightened interest among all voters, particularly young people?" he said.

In the meantime, before voting day, both Coffin and Lavell encourage everyone to check to ensure they have the ID that's required to vote. You can see that list of eligible ID at Elections Canada's website.


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