Post-secondary students able to vote on campus during municipal election
Posted Aug 20, 2021 04:01:49 PM.
Last Updated Aug 20, 2021 10:37:46 PM.
CALGARY — After student unions raised concern over a lack of voting access on post-secondary campuses during this fall’s municipal election, the polls will now be allowed after all.
Elections Calgary initially said it did not intend to put the polls on campuses, citing various concerns such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This would be a significant difference from past elections where so-called vote anywhere polls were allowed on campuses and helped students and staff easily cast a ballot regardless of where they lived.
RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Not rocket science’: Push to open advance polls on Calgary campuses
On Friday, it was announced that Elections Calgary had reversed course and the polls would be opened on the campuses of the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, SAIT and Bow Valley College for two days during the advance voting period.
“It really is a huge win for students,” said Calgary Students Alliance Chair and University of Calgary Students’ Union Vice President Marley Gillies. “It’s the difference between a student voting and a student not voting and that’s exactly what we want to see.”
Gillies said pressure from the groups, as well as some additional help from local politicians and election candidates, helped push the issue in their favour.
However, she said it is still a compromise because it is not exactly what they were hoping for.
“The decision is also only for the four biggest institutions in Calgary, so we know at some of our smaller institutions those students will still find it hard to vote, but we will continue to work with Elections Calgary and make sure that voting is accessible for all students regardless of what institution they attend.”
There is also some concern about how the polls will only be open for two days, and they don’t yet know which specific days nor where exactly they will be operated on the campuses.
Gillies said there is already a problem with low voter turnout among youth, and changes need to be made so it is easier to cast a ballot. Student unions will also be working on a campaign to encourage youth to get out and vote, along with hosting debates and candidate forums so students can hear directly about their platforms.
“We know that when you vote in your first election, you are more likely to keep voting,” said Gillies. “So we will continue to make sure students have accessible voting and feel empowered to participate this fall.”