Burnaby school librarian helps students sign up to vote

If more young voters don’t cast a ballot in Monday’s election than in years past, it won’t be Colleen Alstad’s fault.

The Alpha Secondary librarian has helped at least 50 young people get one step closer to voting in their first election this year.

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In June, she tracked down all the Grade 12 students at her school who had turned 18 during the school year, took them down to the library and helped them register online with Elections Canada.

“I wanted to make sure we got the Grade 12s who were graduating registered before they left us forever,” Alstad told the NOW. “They’re perfectly capable of registering themselves, but who knows. I thought if we facilitated that, it would be one less hurdle for them to face, and then they would be able to vote.”

The Alpha librarian tracked down two more eligible student voters this year.

But Grade 12 student Colby Fowlie had already set himself up, having registered at Brentwood Mall with his mom.

“I figured I should,” he said. “Not a lot of people my age do vote.”

For students who haven’t registered yet, though, he said helping them sign up online at school might encourage them to actually cast a ballot.

“If they didn’t have to go find a place to register, it would make it easier,” Fowlie said.

Alstad agrees.

“To ease them in, that was the purpose for their first time,” she said. “I’m really really concerned about getting the youth vote out and how low the numbers have been lately, and I’m hoping to do even a little bit to change that.”

Alstad started voting as soon as she turned of age about 40 years ago. With parents who often discussed politics and voted, she said she never considered not voting to be an option.

“You feel like you’re part of a democracy when you vote,” she said. “You feel like you have a say.”

This is the first time Alstad has systematically set out to help students register, but she’d like to keep the idea going for future elections and see it expand to other schools.

“It’s important to get the youthful energy and the youth issues,” she said. “We’re turning into such a seniors country. Youth need to feel represented, and I don’t know that they do.”

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