Student turnout normally low in municipal elections

Durham College student (left) Jason Weippert, 19, says he will not be voting in Monday's election, but Marley Klus, 24, says he will cast a ballot. Photo credit: Dakota Evans

The municipal election in Oshawa is Oct. 22, but do students plan on coming out to vote?

Historically, they have not turned out in big numbers, says one candidate.

Julia McCrea, who is running in Ward 2, says student turnout is very low.

About 20 students voted at the closest poll near the Durham College, UOIT campus in the last election, she says.

McCrea also says she complained to the city clerk about Ward 2 – which includes DC and UOIT – for only having one advance poll for the upcoming Oct. 22 vote, while every other ward in the city had two polls.

According to McCrea, student turnout is generally between 15-20 per cent region-wide in municipal elections.

She thinks this could be due to a lack of student awareness, noting candidates can’t campaign via traditional door-knocking methods in university and college residences.

“The restrictions for the on-campus, in-residence students are very restrictive,” she said.

According to McCrea, rather than door-to-door, a candidate must reach out to residence management and be provided a room and time in the residence for students to visit the candidates and ask questions.

Oshawa city clerk Andrew Brouwer says there is typically a lower voter turnout among youth in municipal elections.

He says it could be due – in part – to a large number of students commuting and not living in the ward of the campus.

Students on campus share similar views.

Sean Drody, 27, a student at DC, thinks elections at the municipal level are not discussed enough.

“It’s important, yeah, but there are so many different levels of elections that you kind of don’t hear about it enough. You prioritize the bigger ones,” says Drody. “You don’t get enough coverage, you don’t get enough exposure to the fact that it’s happening besides the signs everywhere.”

According to Drody, these signs don’t give people any information besides the names and the faces of those who are running.

Another DC student, Jerome Quayson, 27, says he only votes when there are issues with which he identifies.

“I voted at those times because of the changes that were being proposed,” Quayson says.

However, this year’s turnout may improve, according to an informal poll on Facebook. In that poll, 37 first-year Durham College students indicated they intend to vote, while 19 said they wouldn’t cast ballots.

City council candidate and former councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri says students he has encountered are engaged in the voting process.

“I am happy to notice the student involvement,” Marimpietri says.