Vote on Campus suspended – But students still have other options
By Keoputhy Bunny, News Editor
Vote on Campus, a popular university-based early voting system launched by Elections Canada, will be suspended for the 2021 federal election due to lack of time to prepare and challenges posed by the pandemic.
Conflicts and limitations
Post-secondary campuses and students across the nation are mourning the loss of the Vote on Campus program in the wake of its 2021 cancellation.
Leanne Nyirfa, Alberta’s Regional Media Advisor for Elections Canada, explained that Vote on Campus was made when a majority government was in power.
“It has never been delivered in a minority government context, where no clear dates can be provided to campus administrators,” she said.
Without a clear date, Nyirfa said, the space needed to make Vote on Campus possible could either be booked in advance and prevent that space from being used for other activities, or be booked at the last minute and risk scheduling conflicts.
The COVID-19 pandemic was also another reason why Vote on Campus was suspended. The social distancing protocols means even more space is needed to ensure safety of everyone involved.
With all of these reasons in mind, Elections Canada decided not to go forward with the Vote on Campus this election and put those resources elsewhere.
“This decision allowed us to reallocate IT resources to other areas where we could be confident that the benefits for electors, including students, would be maximized,” Nyirfa said.
How can students vote now?
Students will still be able to vote in other ways.
If a student wants to vote using an address other than where they live while at school, they have two options. They can either vote by mail or at any Elections Canada office.
If a student wants to vote using the address where they live while at school or haven’t moved away from home while attending school, they have several options as well. They are able to vote on election day, at advance polls, by mail or at any Elections Canada office. A letter of Confirmation of Residence can be requested from the office of the Registrar if students are concerned about proving their address.
If students want to vote by mail, they must apply online or in a local Elections Canada office by Sept. 14th. Elections Canada will mail back a voting kit with everything a person needs to vote including a pre-paid envelope and instructions on how to do it. Elections Canada asks to receive your marked ballot by 6 p.m. on the election day.
Students can also vote at an Elections Canada office if they can’t make it to their assigned polling station during the advance polls or the election day. Voting must take place before 6 p.m. on Sept. 14th.
According to Nyirfa, there will be a polling station at the university on election day, just not the Vote on Campus program which allows students to do early on-campus voting.
Proof of ID is required to vote in all forms.
The Vote on Campus program was started in 2015 and continued in 2019 because of its resounding success. The turnout increased from 69,096 on-campus voters in 2015 to 110,395 on-campus voters in 2019. A survey found that the majority of voters (who responded to the survey) were between the ages of 18-24 and the reason they voted on campus was because the location was more convenient than anywhere else.
The survey also concluded that the average total time to vote was under nine minutes.
In the 2019 survey, almost one-fifth said they probably would have not voted if there was not an on-campus location.
Elections Canada’s website states that they understand that students are facing unique obstacles and they are committed to bringing the Vote on Campus program the next election.