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Advance polling stations aim to increase student voting engagement

In case you didn’t notice the signs festooning the streets of Fredericton, it’s general election season in the province of New Brunswick and, for many students, it’s their first time to vote.

Election Day is on Sept. 22 this year. In the weeks leading up to this date, Elections NB and the UNBSU are doing what they can to make the process easier for students and get them out to vote.

A large part of this is making students aware of what’s at stake.

“Students should vote because the politicians listen to what happens at the ballot box and they have all the information. They know who votes and they know in what numbers they vote and those are the people who they listen to,” said Greg Bailey, president of the UNBSU.

Although voter turnout is much lower in the 18 to 24 age bracket, a study put out by Elections Canada about youth electoral engagement in Canada showed it is much higher among those who have a post-secondary education.

“We need to show that we’re the ones who’re listening and we’re the ones the government needs to pay attention to,” Bailey said.

One of the ways Elections NB is trying to make the voting process easier for students is by setting up advanced polling stations on the university and community college campuses in the province.

During the week of Sept. 15 to 19, students will be able to register to vote and cast their ballots at a booth set up in the Student Union Building.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is make it easy and accessible to them [students],” said Michael Quinn, chief electoral officer for the province of New Brunswick.

Students have a unique status as voters in that they may choose to vote for the candidates in their home ridings or their university riding. In the case of UNBF students, that riding is Fredericton South.

Candidates for the Fredericton South riding are Craig Leonard for Progressive Conservative, Roy Wiggins for Liberal, Kelly Lamrock for NDP, David Coon for the Green Party and Courtney Mills, a recent graduate of UNB who is running as an independent candidate.

Further initiatives put out by Elections NB to increase youth engagement are a website designed to provide students with all the information and resources they need to vote and informational handouts that will be available at many locations around campus.

“We want to make every effort we can to get the youth included in the demographic process as early as possible in the hopes that then they’ll remain involved for all of their adult lives.”

Students may vote in the general election if they are a Canadian citizen, 18 years of age or older, a resident of New Brunswick or, if they are from another province, have been ordinarily a resident for at least 40 days.

Look to the Brunswickan for more election coverage in coming weeks.

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