Elections Canada recently announced the cancelation of the Vote on Campus program for the upcoming federal election to take place on Sept. 20.
The program was launched during the 2015 election and continued during the 2019 federal election with the aim of increasing youth voting rates across the nation. During the first edition of the program almost six years ago, around 39 post-secondary institutions participated in the pilot program.
More than 70,000 people cast special ballots using this program in 2015, according to Elections Canada. Young people that used the program were cited as saying that they wouldn’t have voted if it hadn’t existed.
The project became an official program leading up to the 2019 federal election where 109 universities had voting offices. However, the program was cancelled for the 2021 election due a lack of time in order to plan the logistics as well as due to the several obstacles produced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The program requires significant advance planning and close collaboration with campus administrators, who help us secure the spaces we need and find workers to deliver the program,” notes Elections Canada webpage.
In a conversation with the Gauntlet, Marley Gillies, Students Union’ (SU) vice-president external, expressed her disappointment for the cancelation of the program and the implications it’ll bring for students to not have accessible voting sites on campus.
“We do recognize that it was a very quick timeline up until the election so there wasn’t a lot of timing for anybody really to plan and prepare, but it definitely will increase the barriers that students face when they do go to vote in September,” she said. “It’s a confusing time and so the lack of [the] Vote on Campus [program] will definitely contribute to that, but we hope to promote all the other various accessible ways that students can vote in September.”
Gillies recognized the time limitation that Elections Canada has and highlighted the work that SU and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) will be doing to promote voting across campus as well as ways students can get informed.
“[The SU will] be hosting an all-candidates forum on Sept. 10, so there’s lot of ways for students to get engaged with the candidates directly,” said Gillies. She also said that to be informed on the issues and the voting process, to check out the Get Out The Vote site through CASA.
Gillies also mentioned that there will be “pop-up booths in and around Mac Hall leading up to the 20th [vote],” so students can get informed about the electoral process.
Students who use “an address other than where you live while at school” will have the option of voting through special ballots which will be available until Sept. 14 at any Elections Canada’s office or using mail-in ballots. Mail-in ballots are available for all students regardless of their address, which is something Gillies encourages students to do to cast their vote.
“Advocacy has been happening all along. We knew since 2019 that there would be a federal election at some point, so we’ve been planning the Get Out The Vote campaign for two years now […] Work has been put in for a long time now so we’re working with what we’ve got at this moment,” Gillies added. “We made it to this point, and now crunch time to get all this information out to students before the 20.” she concluded.
Visit Elections Canada website to learn more about the voting process and the different guidelines all eligible voters must follow. Find information about the mail-in ballots process, online. You can also find your voting station by using the following link.