Stirring the pot…

Online discussion could stir up some interest in the election

Only five days before the Big Day.

When this paper is on the stands, it will be a few short days before we all get to have our say in the federal election, and I have to admit, I’m very interested to see what happens.

Last election, Canada had a record low voter turnout, with disaffected voters uninterested and disengaged from the issues and probably the politicians themselves.

I’m hoping this time will be different.

However, it seems like there might be some who disagree with a call to encourage young voters to get out and vote.

The Conservative Party has launched legal action against a University of Guelph polling station, where students were being given the chance to cast their ballot early. Over 700 students took the opportunity to make their mark.

Early voting might be critical to some students in order to vote. Many students  will be relocating just after exams finish, and during the actual election.

The Conservative legal challenge alleges there was partisan material present at or near the polling station, a violation of the Canada Elections Act, and wants the votes thrown out. The local Conservative candidate’s communications director was even reported to have made a grab for the ballot box to prevent further voting, confirmed by two witnesses in a Guelph Mercury news story on the incident.

I find this whole thing disturbing. Elections Canada officials were conducting the voting and you would hope they were upholding the rules. If the Conservative Party had an issue with the proceedings, should they not go through the proper channels instead of attempting to strike engaged youth voters’ opinions from the record?

I just hope Canada’s election doesn’t degenerate to the point of recent elections in the United States, where there were reports voters in some African American-dominated ridings were prevented from voting by huge line-ups and issues around registration, with large numbers of people mysteriously dropped from voters lists.

And I do remain hopeful we will not suffer this same fate with governments and parties manipulating the electoral system and the media – though something like the latest installment of national media (Sun News Network) is probably not a step in the right direction.

But for this election at least, social media has kept me optimistic.

While I would say no particular party has successfully engaged the youth vote, I think there has been some major progress done online by other groups to engage voters and especially youth using social media.

One website has gone viral and been tweeted about by both author Margaret Atwood (who has over 162,000 Twitter followers) and Ellen Page of Juno fame (who has over 100,000 followers).

Launched on April 13 this year, the website has seemed to at least engage voters, some of whom I would assume are youth, given that it went viral via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The website is www.shitharperdid.ca, and while the name might offend some and scare others off as too radical, it is actually a comedic site, started by a “network of young Canadian comedians, musicians, actors and designers” according to the site’s release.

There are videos and comedic captions, all taking Stephen Harper to task for something he has done while in office, and all backed up by links to news stories from various media, including the CBC, Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and others.

It’s hilarious, if somewhat disturbing.

But while you may or may not agree with what the site is trying to say, I think it is a prime example of how social media is attempting to engage voters, and especially young voters, a traditionally uninterested segment of the voting population.

I for one, am enjoying the spectacle.

I am also appreciating the fact that the various political parties haven’t caught on directly, which gives the online debate a more open and sometimes rebellious tone.

 

And what young person doesn’t appreciate a little rebellion?