Home Elections R U voting? Student-led group is working to increase on-campus voting, despite virtual semester

R U voting? Student-led group is working to increase on-campus voting, despite virtual semester

by Camilla Bains

XU Votes has collaborated on a virtual candidates’ debate, created digital videos and shared links to advance polling stations

Courtesy @XUVotes Instagram

XU Votes, formerly known as Ryerson Votes, is a campus-wide, non-partisan voter engagement campaign that aims to mobilize students to participate in elections. 

On its Instagram and Twitter accounts, XU Votes says it has helped increase on-campus voter turnout by 55 per cent in the 2019 Federal Election. 

Hanen Nanaa, a third-year politics and governance student, joined XU Votes earlier this year and is now leading the team. 

Nanaa, president of Ryerson’s Politics and Governance Students’ Association (POGSA), says the XU Votes team is focused on engaging students to vote and ensuring they know where polling stations are located. 

With a team of four volunteer students, XU Votes has recently been guiding its social media followers to advance polls, which open to voters Friday. 

Nanaa says the main hurdle the team has had to overcome during this election season has been adjusting to engaging students online, as the campus has remained shut down for regular activities. 

XU Votes functions under Ryerson’s Democratic Engagement Exchange. On Sept. 1, both groups collaborated on hosting the 2021 Toronto Centre Candidates Virtual Debate, where federal Green Party leader Annamie Paul and Toronto Centre candidates Brian Chang (NDP), Marci Ien (Liberal) and Ryan Lester (Conservative) answered student questions. 

The collaborative virtual debate highlighted the candidates and their platforms, allowing students to pre-submit and ask questions live.

Hanen Nanaa, leader of XU Votes. (Courtesy Hanen Nanaa)

“We’re working on holding events and debates so students get to engage and be familiar with the platforms of the candidates before they make a decision,” says Nanaa. “Because it’s a virtual experience now, we’re working more on campaigns.”

XU Votes recently launched a campaign called My Voice Matters. The digital campaign encourages students to record a one-minute video saying why they are voting in the upcoming election or why voting matters to them. The group then shares the short clips on its social media. 

As a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in 2016, Nanaa is currently ineligible to vote. She says this is partly why she is passionate about the work XU Votes is doing.

“That is one of the reasons encouraging me to do my part as a new Canadian in this upcoming election,” says Nanaa. “I’m not able to vote, but we’re encouraging people to vote.”

Nanaa says she plans to vote in the next election, after she becomes a citizen. 

The XU Votes team also works collaboratively with the university, the university’s community engagement team, and with the Faculty of Arts, all of which collaborated on facilitating the virtual debate.

Nanaa says the team hopes to facilitate more debates. She says students appeared engaged, asking questions about the university’s name change, the political leaders’ roles in Truth and Reconciliation, mental health, climate change, poverty and social justice issues.

“It was just a great debate. That was an accessible opportunity to meet with the candidates,” says Nanaa. “We are hoping to create more events for them where they can stay informed, involved and engaged in the upcoming election.”

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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