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Vote on Campus program not returning to U of G for September election

Post-secondary students will not have the luxury of utilizing the Vote on Campus for this election as Election's Canada said the program will not be in place come September
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After expanding voting in the last two elections to post-secondary institutions, the Election’s Canada Vote on Campus program will not be used in the current election.

Launched in 2015 as a pilot project to help increase access to voting for youth, 39 post-secondary campuses across the country participated in the program.

The program expanded during the 2019 federal election to 109 post-secondary campuses across 86 electoral districts.

In both election cycles, the University of Guelph was a part of the Vote on Campus program, with data from Election’s Canada showing in the 42nd general election in 2015 a total of 2,589 votes were cast on campus and in the 43rd general election in 2019 that number increased to 3,256 votes.

A spokesperson from Elections Canada said while any elector could vote at these offices, most were students, and more than three quarters of electors who voted at external service point offices were from outside their home electoral district.

The turnout increased every day that Vote on Campus was available, peaking at around 48,000 across the country on Oct. 9, 2019. 

In all, more than 110,000 voted at these locations in 2019, compared with about 70,000 in 2015.

“The Vote on Campus is not happening for a number of very specific reasons, but mainly due to the fact we have a minority government and there wasn’t a lot of lead time to be able to prepare for Vote on Campus,” said Dugald Maudsley, regional media advisor with Election’s Canada. “It normally takes anywhere between eight to 12 months to organize the locations and discuss it with the university and college administrators.”

With the vaccination status of campuses changing, including the University of Guelph’s status change from voluntary compliance to required vaccination proof, the logistics of opening the ballot boxes on the campus presented a new complexity.

Instead, this year of the 18,000 polling stations that will be set up across the country, and Election’s Canada will look at setting up stations near the university or possibly on the campus.

If a polling location is set up on campus, it will still not be considered a part of the Vote on Campus program.

“They’re trying to find polling places that will be close to or even potentially on some universities, not part of the Vote on Campus program has done in the last election, but just voting or polling stations to make it as easy as possible for students to be able to get to,” said Maudsley.

Data on voter turnout from those aged 18-24 showed an increase from 39 per cent of those eligible to vote in this age group casting a ballot in 2011 to 57 per cent in 2015.

This number dipped slightly in the 2019 election to 53.8 per cent.

With the Vote on Campus program unavailable, students can utilize the vote by mail services afforded to them providing they apply to vote by mail before the deadline on September 14.

Elections Canada’s website says electors voting by mail should plan ahead as they need time to receive their voting kit and return their marked ballot. 

All marked ballots must be received by the election date of Sept. 20 otherwise they will not be counted.