Inspiring the Youth Vote

They say the youth are apathetic when it comes to politics.

As a young woman of 22, I’d like to disagree. We aren’t apathetic; we just aren’t motivated, at least not by traditional methods of politicking. If you want the youth vote, you can’t confine your canvassing to knocking on doors. Obviously hokey (read: “hip”) attempts to engage our demographic often have the opposite effect and only attract ridicule. To catch the attention of the largest untapped voter base, you need to get online and do it well – legitimately and transparently. Social media is how we get most of our information & do most of our socializing – why would our political involvement be any different?

Rocco speaks to youth supporters (Photo courtesy of Rocco Rossi on Flickr)
It’s not hard to jump into social media, and Rocco Rossi has proved this. Using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, Rossi has managed to assemble what the media likes to call his social media “army”. Fueled by content created by Rossi himself, this dedicated group of social media enthusiasts tweet, re-tweet, and engage with supporters on all sides of the political playing field. Through Rocco LIVE — a live-streamed, audience-attended town hall — anyone is able to pose a question to Rossi and get a real-time response, essentially changing the landscape of usual political conduct.

Transparency and trust are the cornerstones and currency of social media and youth involvement, making these initiatives even more attractive. The information and relationships uncovered through using social media in such a way is invaluable. In the case of youth voters, it’s potentially the one driving force that will get the 18-25 set off the couch and off to the polls on October 25.

Instead of waiting for this demographic to come to him, Rossi and his team, comprised of many young staff & volunteers, have reached out to them, taking the campaign trail online.

Without leaving the comfort of our homes or office chairs, the campaign comes to us – press releases, photos, live-tweeting from debates. Suddenly, it’s not so hard to get involved and form an opinion. And, suddenly, it’s not so hard to see politicians as real people, worthy of our support.

Take Rossi’s Twitter page, for example. While I was skeptical at first
as to whether he really posted himself, through a combination of links to policy, Mayorathon photos straight from his BlackBerry, and a steady stream of near-obsessive tweets about Bathurst & Lawrence’s United Bakers — I now have no doubts about who’s doing the tweeting.  In fact, the very knowledge that Rossi is doing it himself makes me like him even more.  Feeling like you “know” a candidate can be that one factor that tips the scales of where your vote’s going.

Thanks to social media and a mayoral candidate unafraid of changing the way we vote (Rossi’s newest platform promise is online voting!), we may finally see a change in the typically embarrassingly low youth voter turnout.  And, if it gets politicians to start showing they’re people & listening to those they’re supposed to be representing, I think it can be nothing but positive for the future of politics.  Now, let’s prove we’re not ‘apathetic’ and run, not walk, to the polls on October 25 to cast our ballots for the next mayor of Toronto – Rocco Rossi!

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