Elections NWT have launched a youth engagement project in the form of a music contest.
The contest and workshop will be led by the Northwest Territories hip-hop artist Aaron “Godson” Hernandez.
“It’s the first time it’s been done in the Northwest Territories, probably in Canada, I’m not aware of any other jurisdictions that have taken on an initiative like this,” Nicole Latour, Chief Electoral Officer of the Northwest Territories.
Young people between the age of 16 and 24 can write a short essay (500 words or less), poem, spoken word or rap about encouraging young people to vote. The winner will win a new phone and a chance to write, record, and produce a video with GODSON in Yellowknife.
“He’s leading the workshop… and he’s one of our foremost hip-hop artists up here,” said Latour.
“He’s just a great guy all around, been out in the communities and done different music projects so… I just think it’s a great opportunity for students to be creative and develop some pretty meaningful messaging.”
Latour said this initiative is needed because youth in the Northwest Territories are underrepresented at the polls.
“So instead of us top-down putting out messaging as to why they should vote, that it would be of greater value or probably more meaningful to have a message for the youth on the importance of casting their ballot from the youth,” Latour said.
“This is basically a different avenue as opposed to creating some kind of advertisement or poster, or some kind of social media post or something. This allows young people to really give it some thought, and make a written submission and be part of the workshop that writes the music and makes the video,” she said.
Latour said doing this exercise one year before the general election is important to reach young voters.
“We want to, by the fall time, have a music product that we can have air time, play time and a video for the young people, and have it in circulation for them to hear, and kind of maybe, relate to, and encourage them to register and then subsequently follow through and vote, ” she said.
Latour said the low voter turnout among youth is due, in part, to a lack of education.
“I know there’s an education renewal exercise in a motion right now, but I don’t think civics was very prevalent in the education curriculum here in the NWT. Elections happen so periodically, so it’s not something that is in the curriculum I think every year, just as an overview and then as a strong focus during an election year…so I just think that the youth didn’t have the awareness,” said Latour.
But Latour said part of the problem is that young adulthood is a very busy time for most people.
“Young people know at 16 they can get a driver’s license, and they know at 19 they can attend an establishment, but not a lot of them know at 18 they become and eligible elector and can cast their ballot,” said Latour.
“I mean I think with some of the happenings in the states, and the youth actually having a significant presence in the public about how much their votes and thoughts do count, I think it’s just really timely, and I think some of the youth up here are paying attention. But this is a generation where they’re not watching TV really, you need to reach them through different means, so this initiative is one that goes down the music avenue,” said Latour.
All entries must be submitted by midnight on July 15, 2018.