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Parties should appeal to young voters to boost turnout: prof

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Only 52 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot in the provincial election and now many people are asking what can be done to more people interested in voting.

UBC policy expert Paul Kershaw says encouraging parties to reach out to younger voters would be a good start.

“So long as platforms say the cupboard is bare for younger generations, that’s definitely one barrier to getting younger generations excited about the political process,” he tells News1130.

“If you’re the incumbent party, you probably don’t need to court the youth vote because you’re winning without them,” he adds. “But if you’re an opposition party, I believe more and more, the path from opposition to governance runs through what I call ‘Generation Squeeze,’ which is the combination of Generations X and Y.”

Kershaw believes the number will improve if a party offers ways to make life more affordable for the under 35 crowd.

“The vast majority of the promised spending [in this provincial election] was promised to an aging population, but the cupboard was relatively bare to invest in younger generations, especially when it came to investing in young families,” says Kershaw.

“I think until platforms actually start to focus on how we address this reality that younger generations make $4 less an hour, even though they have more post-secondary education than any other generation, and then they have to pay housing prices that are 150 per cent higher, we’re not likely to see younger people opt back into the political process.”

In the 2009 election, voter turnout was even lower: a dismal 51 per cent.