Ontario university presidents sign pledge to encourage students to vote

ballot box
ballot box

The presidents of Ontario’s 20 publicly funded universities have signed a pledge committing to encourage young people to get out and vote, the Council of Ontario Universities made the announcement as Canadians head to the polls.

“As incubators of critical inquiry and debate, universities function as core institutions of a democratic society,” says the pledge. “It is in this role that Ontario universities pledge to support the fundamental democratic right of students to participate freely in electoral processes where they are entitled to do so as citizens.”

Patrick Deane, COU chair and president of McMaster University, says Ontario university presidents believe electoral participation is a core right and responsibility and were motivated to take action after noting that just 39 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 voted in the 2011 federal election.

“Voter turnout by our young people is disappointingly low,” says Deane. “And yet our democratic society depends on the participation of our young people. Ontario universities are committed to promoting youth participation in the electoral process.”

To encourage students to vote in the upcoming federal election, and in elections in all levels of government, university presidents have pledged to:

  • Support the dissemination of information on electoral participation on campus;
  • Facilitate the availability of voting stations at accessible campus locations where off-campus stations are not accessible;
  • Encourage campus-based groups that promote student voting, and address barriers to student participation;
  • Provide a progress update at least every four years.

“Ontario universities are educating generations of citizens and the leaders of tomorrow,” says Bonnie Patterson, COU president and CEO. “Our democratic culture will be ever more vibrant if we help our students get engaged in the democratic process.”