There had been weeks of speculation ahead of the official announcement on August 15, 2021, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would call for a snap election.
From voters being able to cast their ballots in isolation, to out-of-province students finding ways to get to the polls, COVID-19 has drastically increased the challenges faced by students in this year’s federal election. However, one particular issue has changed the way students interact with the voting system, possibly forever.
On August 25, Elections Canada made an announcement on their official Twitter page that sparked outrage stating:
“Many of you have asked us about whether you’ll be able to vote on campus for #Elxn44. Due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic and the minority government situation, we are not able to run the Vote-on-campus program this election.”
The Vote on Campus program began in 2015 to boost voting amongst the youth demographic. Elections Canada partnered with Canadian universities and locations that youth seemed to frequent most. Over 70,000 voters accessed these facilities to participate in the 2015 federal election.
Since the announcement of the program’s cancellation, Elections Canada has received criticism from students and older voters alike, citing student voter suppression and a lack of transparency in their preparedness to act during a minority government and snap election.
The agency detailed the reasons for the suspension of the Vote on Campus program for the 44th federal election stating:
“…the vote-on-campus program requires months of planning to coordinate the use of space, and to ensure we can recruit the workers needed. With the challenges brought on by the pandemic and the minority government situation, we couldn’t give campus administrators firm dates to help them plan. We will continue our communications and outreach efforts to be sure students have what they need to vote, and we look forward to offering vote-on-campus at future elections.”
St. Thomas University Student Union (STUSU) President Tyler MaGee weighed in on the potential challenges faced by students trying to access polls.
“The biggest challenge to overcome is that many students who live in residence do not have vehicles and rely on public transportation,” he explained.
STUSU had planned to coordinate a liaison between students and Elections Canada to keep the student body informed but was unable to do so. In lieu of a liaison, STUSU took on the role along with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), a non-partisan organization consisting of 24 student associations that represents 75,000 students across Canada, as part of the Get Out the Vote campaign.
Another major obstacle he outlined is that many out-of-province students did not have a chance to meet the 40-day resident requirement in order to vote outside of their riding and will be required to vote by mail-in ballot. Although the landscape for voting this year is different, the MaGee expressed his hopefulness that all eligible students will recognize their right to vote and take the opportunity to do so.
Polling stations for St. Thomas University residences include:
-Wu Center located at 6 Duffie Drive
-Forest Hill United Church located at 45 Kimble Court
Polling stations for UNB residences include:
-Sainte-Anne Community Centre located at 715 Priestman Street
-Lady Beaverbrook Rink located at 411 University Avenue
Students in residence or who live off campus that are unsure of which polling station to go to can find the information by visiting www.elections.ca and entering their residence postal code.
Students from out-of-region will be able to vote for Fredericton candidates if they choose. They will need to provide proof of residence and one additional piece of ID.
Students who voted by special or mail-in ballot must ensure they are returned on or before September 20.