AMS to donate $2 to UNICEF Canada for each student vote in upcoming election

To increase student engagement in upcoming AMS elections, the student society is proposing a new annual fundraising campaign that donates money based on the number of ballots cast.

The campaign — which is called Elect Change — will donate a certain dollar amount for each student vote during AMS elections to a chosen charity or organization. AMS Council voted to approve this program Wednesday night.

This year, the AMS will donate $2 for every student ballot cast to the UNICEF Canada’s COVID-19 Fund, which aims to supply low-income nations with COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX. The charity will change each year.

The student society will donate up to $30,000 this year, which translates to 15,000 votes cast — or 25 per cent vote turnout — and 12,500 full two-dose programs of COVID-19 vaccines. The money will be donated from the AMS’s International Projects Fund.

As one of the four main agencies working on COVAX and its prominence in Canada, AMS President Cole Evans said choosing UNICEF Canada’s COVID-19 Fund was “a no-brainer” for the student society in an interview with The Ubyssey.

During Wednesday night’s Council meeting, Evans said that voter turnout has steadily decreased over the past few years, from an average of 20 per cent between 2017 and 2019, down to around 12 per cent in 2020 and a 6 per cent turnout last year.

“Something we’ve talked a lot about at the AMS over the past little while has been: 'how can we get better voter turnout and how can we engage students more in elections?' The idea kind of just came to me as I was thinking about how we could do this,” Evans said.

Councillors agreed upon an amount of $2 per ballot Wednesday night, after considering the feasibility of funding. Currently, two doses of the vaccine cost around $2.43.

Evans emphasized that through the campaign, “students can feel good about casting their vote and they can feel like their vote is making a difference not just here at UBC … but also that their vote is going towards a donation to a cause that the community cares about.”

First-year English major Kyran Alikamik said he supports the campaign and feels incentivized to vote in the upcoming election.

“The fact that [the AMS] is putting so much effort in doing that kind of work … to make vaccines more accessible, especially to low-income communities ... I think that's only a positive thing,” he said.

“[COVID-19] is something that’s current. It's going to speak more to our generation because [the pandemic] is kind of a really big thing that's happening in our lives,” says Brandt Swaren, a first-year science student. “I think that would definitely be something to get me to go vote.”

Evans said he is hopeful that the AMS will reach its goal, but believes the campaign will have a positive impact regardless.

“We're still excited about being able to make a donation to this cause. So even if it doesn't move the needle too much, I still think that the campaign will be successful no matter what.”

This article has been updated to say that $30,000 translates to 12,500 full two-dose programs of the COVID-19 vaccines. A previous version said these funds could purchase 12,500 single doses.