News / London

Yes, students can vote: King’s University College fights back against 'dispiriting' trend at polls

You can vote, and you should, students are being told ahead of a big event in the race to become mayor of London.

Mayoral candidates are to pitch their platforms at King’s University College on Wednesday (Oct. 8) at a student-led event that’s expected to pack people in. It’s open to the public.

Political science and social justice and peace students are organizing it, with faculty help, and they have 14 mayoral candidates confirmed as attending. There have been debates there before, but the scale of this one is unprecedented.

Part of the aim is to encourage students to take more interest in the local election, and of course to vote. That could, in turn, lead to more of a sense of belonging in London for students who tend to leave when their education is complete.

“It can be dispiriting, hearing about the (voting) turnout rates among the student population,” said social justice and peace student Kayla LeBlanc. “Part of bringing the candidates here and making the candidates more accessible to the student population is that we want to get the messages out that everyone can vote.

“If you have a London address, whether or not you’re going to stay here after graduation, you can get out and vote.”

About 2 per cent of Western students voted in an advance poll during the 2010 municipal election. Voter turnout for the city as a whole was just shy of 40 per cent.

With more than 40 students involved in setting up the debate, it’s clear there is a section that ares. There’s also no shortage of interest in it. The room at the student life centre is expected to be full, so organizers are already expecting to live stream the debate in an overflow room.

After it’s all over, each candidate will be given a space in the student life centre so students can meet them individually.

“We’re trying to focus on the fact that King’s students are focused on local politics and politics on a grander scale, and to show the candidates that we want to connect with them, and they should try to connect with us as well,” political science student Curtis Brehn said.

“A lot of these issues are going to affect youth going forward, like youth retention in the city of London.”

The debate will include issues that are of special interest to students but will also cover a wide range of topics.

Brehn predicted discussion of the economy, job creation, transportation and public transit, housing and more.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the debate is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. It's in the student life centre, next to the Cardinal Carter Library.

Candidates for council seats are also expected to attend.

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