Long before election day on Oct. 19, Danika McConnell was busy promoting the Get Out The Vote campaign at MacEwan University. The campaign, which is run with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), encourages students to vote in the federal election.
According to the Council of Canadians, just one in three people aged 18-24 voted in the 2011 federal election. This year, the election polls are extremely close. McConnell, the vice-president external at the Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU), says that even a single vote can change the results.
“There has been very close calls in elections, spanning from municipal and, I’m sure, all the way up to federal,” says McConnell. “Your vote really does matter.”
This is one of the reasons why SAMU has taken part in Get Out The Vote. Another reason is to provide students an opportunity to prove how much they care about their government. In the past, campaigns have often neglected to acknowledge young voters because of a misconception that most students and youth are apathetic and ill-informed. SAMU, however, acts according to the belief that students are passionate and knowledgeable enough to care about what happens in their country. Regardless, there are some barriers that young voters need help to overcome.
Accessibility may be an issue for students who want to vote in the election, according to McConnell. Many university students are not registered to vote in the Edmonton area and are unable to leave the city to vote where they are registered. Those students that are eligible to vote in the city may also have trouble voting because full-time students and students with part-time jobs might not be able to take time to visit the polls on election day.
Get Out The Vote helped break down these barriers by providing information on registering to vote and encouraging students to pledge to vote. In exchange for the pledge, students would receive messages reminding them to vote before or on the day of the election and to encourage their friends and classmates to vote with them. In addition, Elections Canada provided MacEwan students with specialty ballot polls.
These polling stations provided students an extended period of time to register and vote. The campus polling stations ran from Oct. 5 to 8 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and it made voting significantly more convenient for students. The process saved them time and allowed them to decide when to participate.
SAMU has not yet received the precise voter turnout numbers for the campus polling station, but McConnell says that the number is in the hundreds. Ideally, if the Get Out The Vote campaign continues to be successful in future elections and voting is made more accessible to young voters, then hopefully their voices will be heard.
“That’s the whole point of our Get Out The Vote campaign,” says McConnell. “It’s just reminding students that you will be heard if you show up to the polls.”
This article has been edited from its original version to reflect correct campus polling dates and ballot types.