Apathy group targets students

Apathy is Boring presented $50,000 plan to City Council to encourage student involvement in local politics

Despite supporting the group’s goal to boost student voting, council members were wary of the plan’s $50,000 price tag during last Tuesday’s City Council.
Despite supporting the group’s goal to boost student voting, council members were wary of the plan’s $50,000 price tag during last Tuesday’s City Council.

City Council is considering investing in a $50,000 project to engage young voters for the upcoming Kingston municipal elections.

The audit project would be run by the international non-profit group Apathy is Boring, which would hire street teams to spread information about the elections and gather information about young voter demographics.

Apathy is Boring executive director Youri Cormier gave a presentation on the project to City Council last Tuesday. He was invited to give the talk by Councillor Sandy Berg.

Cormier said the project will have two segments: raising interest in the municipal elections and gathering data on the youth voter demographic.

Apathy is Boring will hire local youths to form a street team of around 30 people, he said.

According to Cormier, the street team will help increase voter turnout while gathering data on young voters.

“We know the street teams are by far the most effective way of increasing voter turnout,”
he said.

The group has found that speaking to people on the street increases voter turnout much more than sending emails, making phone calls or handing out pamphlets, he said.

The street teams will conduct 50-question surveys which correspond to 50 indicators of youth engagement, he said.

“The idea is to give ourselves a measure of the best practices the cities are currently using,” he said.

Once four or five cities have conducted the audit, he said, the organization wants to create an online database that anyone could access to compare cities in terms of youth-friendly practices.

The large price tag attached to the project could be an obstacle, Cormier added, but the group is looking to find corporate sponsors and other contributors to share the cost.

“The project will cost $50,000, but the idea is that the City of Kingston would never pay more than half of that,” he said.

The money won’t be taken out of Kingston either, he said, since the organization will be hiring local young people rather than hiring externally.

The organization ran a pilot project in Grand Prairie, Alberta, according to Cormier, before looking to conduct audit projects in Kingston and Toronto.

Councillor Sandy Berg said she invited Apathy is Boring to Council out of interest in better engaging young voters.

“It really resonates with me that we need to engage with individuals to build the habit of voting,” she said.

However, she said she wouldn’t support paying $50,000 for the project out of the City budget, but will support the project if the costs are shared with another group.

According to Berg, City staff are currently engaging in discussions with Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, the City of Toronto and the City of Kitchener about cost-sharing.

Countryside District Councillor Jeff Scott said he feels the project would be targeting the wrong people.

He said he’s more interested in engaging high school students in local elections than university students, since Queen’s and St. Lawrence students aren’t always residents of Kingston.

“I feel that the Apathy is Boring project would be better applied during a provincial or federal election where residency is not an issue,” Scott told the Journal via email.

However, he added that he still feels that universities and colleges should do what they can to get students to vote.

AMS Communications Officer Sarah Kucharczuk said the AMS hasn’t been approached yet about potential collaboration, so they can’t comment on the project.

However, they are looking at student turnout as well, she said.

“The AMS is currently focusing on our own plans for the upcoming municipal elections and getting out the student vote,” she said. “It’s really great to see that this is a priority for the City as well.”

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