Combating lack of information top priority for get-out-the-vote groups

With the provincial election only a day away, get-out-the-vote organizations are working to get Ontarians to the polls through education and encouragement.

'Some people just don’t know how easy it is to participate in our democracy'

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance launched the #StudentsVote campaign earlier this year encouraging young people to participate in Thursday’s election. (Courtesy of Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance)

From setting up mock voting booths in mosques to sharing party platforms on social media, get-out-the-vote organizations are working to get Ontarians to the polls through education and encouragement. 

"I think some people just don't know how easy it is to participate in our democracy," Ali Manek, get-out-the-vote campaign manager at Canadian-Muslim Vote, told CBC Toronto.

His organization — which aims to increase political participation among Canadian Muslims — has been providing information on the upcoming election through door-knocking, phone calls and an extensive social media campaign.

The group has also conducted interviews with all four political party leaders, publishing the interviews online, and encouraged imams at Ontario mosques to preach political engagement and the importance of democracy. 

Manek says a main focus of his organization's campaign is to combat a lack of political education and to "demystify the process of voting." 

Canadian Muslim Vote handed out flyers throughout the 2015 federal election campaign with hopes of getting more Muslims to the polls. (CBC)


Hoping to do the same is Danny Chang, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). His organization launched the #StudentsVote campaign earlier this year to encouraging young people to participate in Thursday's provincial election. 

"What we're trying to do is inform students about how, when and where to vote," he said.

"I definitely think that with young voters in particular, a lot of confusion about how to actually go and cast a ballot is what can potentially deter young people from voting. What we want to do is cut that confusion." 

People aged 18 to 24 are the least likely to vote in provincial elections, according to data from Statistics Canada.

Only 34 per cent of eligible voters in that age bracket cast a ballot in the last provincial election. And that's an increase from the 2011 election, in which a mere 24 per cent of eligible youth voted.

Beyond the how, when and where of voting, Chang says part of his organization's strategy has been to make students aware of why they should vote — highlighting issues like the cost of education, sexual violence on campus, open educational resources and student mental health.

Ontario's black community

Velma Morgan, chair of Operation Black Vote Canada, says her organization is also focusing its resources on the black community's young people and first-time voters.

"We think this is an important election. There's going to be a change and we need to make sure that change is good for our community and the only way for us to do that is to get our young people to vote."

An audience member asks a question during Ontario's black community debate in North York. (CBC)

She says primary barriers to voting in her community include a lack of political awareness and a lack of engagement with local candidates. 

"If they're not really paying attention they may not have an idea of who is running in their riding, may not know where to go out and vote," she said.   

"A lot of times, there's this myth that the black community doesn't vote. If there's an apartment building or a high concentration of black people, some candidates won't drop there. If [they] don't drop there, you don't know who's running."