Elections PEI tries to get youth informed before fall plebiscite

This November, 16 and 17-year olds on P.E.I. will have a say in the voting system for the first time in Canada.

The provincial electoral reform vote in November is first to include 16 and 17-year-olds and online voting

Elections PEI has been travelling across the province informing people about the upcoming plebiscite. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

This November, 16 and 17-year olds on P.E.I. will have a say in the voting system for the first time in Canada.

Island voters will help choose which voting system they prefer in the upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform.

Elections PEI has been touring the province this summer to inform people about the five systems for electing members of the legislative assembly.

And this year, they have the added task of informing the youngest voters in the country.

Not many youth at information booth

Paul Alan, director of communications for Elections PEI, said students were very engaged when Elections PEI handed out almost 5,000 voter registration cards at high schools across the province before the summer.

But, they haven't had many youth visiting the kiosk.

Elections PEI wants to make sure Islanders go into November's plebiscite with all the information. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

"We haven't engaged with them a lot one-to-one on our travels so far, we've talked to a few, but we will be going right into the high schools when school resumes in September and will be having public meetings with them to explain the different options and how they vote and the importance of their vote."

'Excited to be included'

Taya Nabuurs is one of two UPEI political students hired by Elections PEI for the summer. 

She said the youth who have interacted with them this summer have been really excited about finally getting to vote.

"The youth that have come up to the booth so far, they're really engaged, they're really interested. I mean, it's exciting for them."

…They are really excited to be included in something like this.- Taya Nabuurs

"It's the first time they get to vote and they are really excited to be included in something like this because of course they will be of age to vote next time the provincial election comes up. So electoral reform is something that directly affects how they're going to vote."

Nabuurs said it helps to have students like her and her colleague Justin Clory, who can relate to the young voters of the future.

Taya Nabuurs is one of two political science students hired by Elections PEI for the summer. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

'Youth are the future'

Nabuurs said the five options that will be on the ballot can be confusing, especially for youth who weren't old enough to vote until now.

"A lot of them, they don't even know about the electoral system the way it is right now, the first-past-the-post system just because they haven't had to vote, they haven't had to learn about the system and how it works."

They are open to a lot more options.- Taya Nabuurs

Although they may have some catching up to do, Nabuurs said the youth seem to have an advantage.

"I find they are a lot more open minded just because they don't necessarily have the mentality of 'Oh this is the way it's always been.' They are open to a lot more options."

Nabuurs said her message to youth is that their voice is important.

"One thing I really try to stress with the youth is that historically, youth have a low voter turnout for their demographic, so oftentimes politicians overlook the youth voice and their opinions and what they want," Nabuurs said. "But youth are the future, and I always try to stress that the higher youth voter turnout we get, then the more attention politicians are going to pay to their opinions and what they want."

Elections PEI will tour high schools once school starts to reach as many youth as possible.