November 15, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Young, potential voters avoiding polls 

Potential voters say 'nothing's going to change'

Simon Van Der Valk is 18 years old and moved to Whistler from Parry Sound, Ont. seven months ago.

Tomorrow marks the first time he can vote, ever, just squeaking in with his age and residency requirements.

But Van Der Valk won't be going to the polls in Whistler.

"It doesn't really matter," he said, standing outside IGA in the Marketplace during a break.

"Nothing's going to change."

Van Der Valk's age demographic, the young voters in Whistler, usually remain a group conspicuous by their absence at the polls and other political events.

They give a variety of reasons for their apathy, from lack of knowledge, to lack of interest, to being busy with other things.

"It's a difficult time for our age group to vote," said Sara Aldridge, who is 30 years old and the residence life supervisor at Whistler-Blackcomb.

She says many people have just arrived in town and they're focused on things like finding a job and a place to stay, rather than thinking about the municipal elections.

"People probably have other priorities."

To be eligible to vote residents must be living in Whistler for the last 30 days and living in B.C. for the last six months.

But even those people, who have been calling Whistler home for years and are not faced with the daunting and immediate challenges of finding a job and a home, are now heading into their busy season.

Carlos Strachan, 31, works at Comor Sports in the village and has been busy at work for the past two weeks with a big sale. It hasn't allowed him a lot of time to keep up-to-date on election coverage.

"I'm thinking about (voting) but I'm very ignorant about who is running," he said.

Aldridge also said she's trying to find the time to vote on Saturday even though she's swamped with work at the Whistler-Blackcomb residences.

"I'm hoping that my voice would count in the scheme of things," she said.

If Aldridge gets to the polls tomorrow it will be the first time she will have cast her vote in Whistler. She did not vote in the last municipal elections three years ago.

Only 41 per cent of registered voters went to the polls in 1999.

Before election day that year slightly more than 200 people voted in the advanced polls.

The numbers are up this time around.

According to Brenda Sims, chief election officer at the municipality, 336 people have voted to date. That number takes into account the two advance polls in Whistler and one in West Vancouver.

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