'This will reduce voter turnout': Students frustrated by loss of on-campus voting program
Elections Canada has scrapped its Vote on Campus program for the upcoming federal election, leaving some students hesitating about heading out to the polls.
University of Waterloo student John Nelly said the ease of casting a ballot on campus was a big incentive to vote in the last federal election.
But this year, Nelly will need to travel to his assigned polling station to vote instead.
"I was like, 'OK, now I actually don't know if I want to,' because it's just now an extra task," he said. "I don't have a car either so I have to go by public transit."
In past years, the program offered students the opportunity to cast a special ballot for whichever riding they considered "home," and now without this option, the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) is concerned.
"This will reduce voter turnout among young people," said WUSA president Benjamin Easton. "The fewer barriers to participate, the better."
Easton said although there will be one polling station open on campus this election, not every student can vote there.
"Students who live in residence on campus will be able to vote on campus, but it's exclusively limited to that group of people," he said.
A spokesperson for Elections Canada said Vote on Campus was set aside last fall due to the uncertainty around schools reopening, adding bringing it back this year would be difficult.
"That is pretty complicated to organize when an election is called fairly rapidly and it's a 36 short election," said Rejean Grenier.
Elections Canada is encouraging students to register to vote and plan for a way to get to the polls on Monday.
"We certainly hope it's not going to affect voter turnout because students have different ways to vote," Grenier said.
Wilfrid Laurier University will have two polling sites on Sept. 22, one at the Waterloo campus and one at the Brantford campus. Only students registered to vote in those ridings will be able to cast a ballot at those locations.
The University of Guelph will not have any polling stations on campus, but individuals who live in residences can vote at the nearby Delta Hotel.