Alberta Votes

Elections Alberta launches anti-apathy campaign to get out vote

From handouts to hashtags, Elections Alberta will send out reminders over the next month as part of a new campaign to try to engage people who don't usually show up to vote.

Voter turnout in 2012 was 54.4 per cent, and that was UP almost 14 points from 2008

Elections Alberta is campaigning to get young voters to cast a ballot in the provincial election. (CBC)

Alberta voters are apathetic.

You might ask, who cares?

Well, this year, Elections Alberta does.

That's why it's launching a multi-media outreach campaign to try to convince people who don't usually show up at the polls to get out and vote.

This year, for the first time, Elections Alberta will run TV ads aimed at the apathetic.

There will also be ads on radio, in newspapers, and on social media.

From handouts to hashtags, Elections Alberta will send out reminders over the next month, leading up to the May 5th vote.

"What we've focused on and added to the program now is an engage campaign," said Drew Westwater, director of election operations and communications for Elections Alberta.

"We're trying to engage the electorate, those who do not traditionally vote and participate in the election process. Through an advertising campaign that's trying to emphasize, 'Why let someone choose for you? Why not participate yourself?'"

Campaign targets young voters

It's a general campaign, but one that is specifically focused on the 24-to-34 demographic, which is the largest group that traditionally doesn't turn out to vote in great numbers.

Four byelections were held last fall in Alberta, three in Calgary and one in Edmonton. The governing Tories won all four.

For the first time, Elections Alberta tracked demographics about those voters and found that fewer than five per cent of those who showed up at the polls were between 18 and 24.

Voter turnout across Alberta had been steadying declining over the past two decades.

The overall turnout at the polls looked like this:

  • 1993, 60.2 per cent;
  • 1997, 52.8 per cent
  • 2001, 52.8 per cent;
  • 2004, 44.7 per cent;
  • 2008, 40.6 per cent.

Then things changed.

The 2012 provincial election looked like a watershed moment in Alberta. For weeks before the vote, polls were predicting the province was about to change governments for the first time since 1971. The storyline was, the Tories were on their way out and the upstart Wildrose party was about to seize power.

The polls were wrong

Well, that didn't happen.

When the votes were counted, the Tories dropped five seats but still held a solid majority of 61. The Wildrose went from four seats to 17 and formed the Official Opposition. The Liberals lost three seats, the NDP gained two.

And in the end, everything went on much as it had, with the Conservatives still in power.

But what 2012 proved, if anything, was that more people suddenly seemed to care. The turnout in that election went up to 54.4 per cent. Almost 14 points higher than 2008.

The numbers broke down this way:

  • Calgary, 53.91 per cent;
  • Edmonton, 54.46 per cent;
  • Rest of Alberta, 53.91 per cent.

The question now is, will all those people show up to vote again?

No one knows.

But Elections Alberta has vowed to do what it can to turn eligibles into voters. That's why the agency has joined with groups such as Apathy is Boring in hopes it can engage young people.

University of Alberta student leader Navneet Khinda says the last year has been frustrating. But she think students can make a real difference.

"Even as a student representative, I've worked with three ministers already. And so, seeing that constant turnaround, and that constant change ... but we're also not seeing results for students.

"So I think a lot of students tend to get disenfranchised, or disengaged."

On Thursday, U of A students will roll out their own plan to entice young people to get out and vote.

For those who care, Elections Alberta is using the hashtag #chooseyouralberta."

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