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August 20, 2014

MTV Canada's 'Impact: Elect This' Gets Young Voters Talking by Keeping Some Quiet

by Jacqueline Delange, posted Apr 25th 2011 10:00AM
When campaign ads flash on TV or party leaders appear in televised debates, many young Canadians tune out.

Often forgotten during election time and unable to address politicians directly, they feel invisible.

What young voters need is a spectacle so they can speak and be heard.

MTV Canada's 'Impact: Elect This' offers just that: a forum that gives politically aware young adults a stage on which to voice their opinions about the upcoming federal election to politicians and other Canadians.

About 100 students and young voters gathered at the MTV studios in Toronto for a filmed discussion on issues affecting Canada's youth, such as tuition costs, the environment, health care, the economy and women's rights. The special will air on April 25 at 9PM; MTV is also sending a DVD of the show to each party leader.

MTV's political correspondent Mike Anderson led the discussion, which he says gives young voters a rare chance to challenge politicians to address young voters: "I'm proposing that we strike a bargain: We'll do our part if you do yours. Our part was getting together [at the taping] and talking, getting that message out to young people. But the other end of the bargain has to be held up, and that's for politicians to engage with us."

Part of what makes MTV shows so entertaining is their (often manufactured) drama, and 'Elect This' was no different.

MTV had each audience member paint his or her face with politicized symbols (although party names were not mandatory). Audience members who will abstain from the vote on May 2 had their mouths taped shut.

But some of the show's participants, including University of Guelph student Sarah Poole, felt the paint and tape belittled the discussion. "We kind of associate it with activism, being rebellious in some way," she said. "In another way, you could look at it as being very juvenile."

Anderson responded: "I can understand how people would feel that way... But sometimes you need some things here and there to keep people's interest."

He added that some of the most heated moments of the discussion occurred when the non-voters removed the tape to express their disillusionment with political figures who seem only to appear during an election. Other audience members tried to convince them to vote, and in so doing convince people watching at home to take action as well.

Spectacles conveyed through other media have inspired young Canadians throughout this election campaign. Poole and other University of Guelph students started a flash 'vote mob,' a non-partisan gathering of about 100 people who used colorful imagery and music to say that students shouldn't be ignored during an election.

Vote mob organizers recruited members on Facebook and posted a video on YouTube (see below), which inspired vote mobs in other areas, Poole said.

"I think there are 18 vote mobs across the country now. That number might have gone up. We have one in the Northwest Territories, which is huge," she said. "YouTube has been a useful tool in us getting out the word so other students can go on and look at it."



And while politicians may not currently tune in to YouTube to learn about their young electorate, Anderson says party leaders will hear the students' message when MTV televises its special because TV "still has a cachet and an element of authority that they respect."

Poole hopes the politicians who watch the show will tailor their campaign strategies to engage young voters both on TV and in the real world.

"The leaders should pay attention to [our discussion] and maybe go into schools or maybe go into youth organizations throughout cities and towns and actually have discussions with youth about issues that are important to them," she said.

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